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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



ALEXANDER MACKIE 

PROSE AND VERSE 



ALEXANDER MACKIE 



PROSE AND VERSE 



EDITED, WITH MEMOIR, 



BY 



JOHN MINTO ROBERTSON, M.A. 



ABERDEEN 

QRosetnounf (press 

1916 



PR 



FOREWORD 

THE present volume, which is produced under the auspices 
of the Former Pupils' Club of Albyn Place School, Aberdeen, 
is in the nature of a memorial of the late Principal of that 
School. It consists of a short memoir, followed by a selection 
from the fugitive pieces, in prose and verse, contributed by 
Mr. Mackie to various newspapers and periodicals. 

In the editing of such a volume the sole difficulty has been 
selection, for it must be remembered that the pieces chosen 
form but one sheaf of a plenteous literary harvest. As far 
as possible the choice has been governed by the wish to make 
the book representative first, of Mr. Mackie's literary style ; 
second, of his tastes and activities ; third, of the North-East 
of Scotland. 

The bulk of the articles and poems appeared originally in 
the columns of " The Aberdeen Free Press," and " The Scottish 
Field." To the proprietors of these publications, as also to 
the respective proprietors of " The Gentleman's Magazine," 
" Alma Mater," " Turriff School Magazine," and " Albyn Place 
School F.P. Magazine," grateful thanks are due for permission 
to reprint. 



00^ -C 
/CoJLO 

tIDD ADV 



vi FOREWORD 

Knowing there were others far more competent, I ne.ver- 
theless counted it a privilege to be asked to write the Memoir 
of Mr. Mackie. Friendship apart, I felt that some two-and-a- 
half years spent as a member of his staff entitled me to speak 
with a certain intimacy and confidence of his work in Educa- 
tion. And that, after all, was his life-work. 

J. M. R. 

TURRIFF, October, 1916. 



CONTENTS 

\Verse in Italics] 



PAGE 

Memoir ,V 

1 v 

Sunset and Sunrise ..... i 

The Silver Dee ... 6 

The Sullen Don g 

The D ever on IO 

A Sea-Birds' Nursery .... 12 

The Deep Sea . ..... 10 

From" Bud to Leaf .... 21 

A Spring Flood 25 

An Amateur's Garden ?? 

^/ 

David Renton ~6 

William Carnie .... '->- 

James Myers Danson 3 3 

George Webster Thomson 39 

To the Dandelion .... 4O 

The Common Mole . ,,-, 

e4 

The Common Sparrow ... 46 

The Welcome .o 

40 

John Marshall Lang 4 g 

Alexander \ Bain .... e O 

Professor Masson .... c r 

The Prayer of Greyfriars .... 56 



VI 11 

PAGE 

The Centuries XI Xth and XXth 58 

The Tree Artistic and the Tree Commercial ... 60 

Matthew Arnold 64 

Robert Brough 65 

James Moir 66 

An October Run 67 

A Blizzard in Buchan 71 

* 

At the Grave of Burns 76 

A Black Fishing 77 

A Christmas Turkey 82 

The Mairrage 84 

The Loon Fae Aiberdeen ....... 89 

The Loon Fae Foggy loan 91 



'""T'HE schoolmaster of the North last century was a strongly- 
1 marked type. Bred on the fortifying classical curri- 
culum, he made that the staple of his own teaching. Humanity, 
in fact, in the sense which still obtains at King's College, and 
without any thought of Comte, was his religion. The type 
reached its apotheosis in Melvin. Boys were the raw material 
of teaching, and they were brought up strictly to meditate the 
Latin muse on a little oatmeal, to abhor " maxies " as the 
snares of the Evil One, and to fear " Grim " and keep his com- 
mandments. It was a rigorous discipline, and many fell by 
the wayside ; but he that endured to the end might enter the 
University, maybe with the martyr's halo of first bursar! 

From that type of schoolmaster the subject of this memoir 
derived, but with certain variations. Reared in the classical 
tradition, under a worthy successor of the great Melvin, 
Alexander Mackie, whether at school or college, showed his 
forte to lie in English, and, as teacher, strengthened by the 
moral support of " barbarian " Bain, he refused to bow down 
and worship Greek and Latin as the sole deities of the educa- 
tional Pantheon. Instead, he set himself to win for English 
Language and Literature a place and dignity in the school 
curriculum these had never before enjoyed. 

His other break with established pedagogic tradition was 
even more noteworthy ; for, while the typical dominie of that 
day was still paying his exclusive attention to that hope of 
the flock, the " lad o' pairts," Alexander Mackie had discovered, 
and was busy exploiting, even to the extent of University 



x ALEXANDER MACKIE 

degrees, that phenomenon of the latter half of the nineteenth 
century, the " lass o' pairts ! " His work in this field, indeed, 
earns him rank in the North as one of the pioneers of the 
higher education of women. 

But, while education was his life-work, he had many other 
interests and hobbies. Wielding the pen of a ready writer, he 
contributed alike to the edification of schools and the delight 
of the general reader. A lover of the open air and outdoor 
life, he found his favourite pastimes in fishing and gardening, 
and these in turn furnished him with many of his most charming 
themes as a writer. With a happy knack for occasional verses, 
he revealed notable gifts as a sonneteer, while as a popular 
lecturer on literary topics, especially the Scots dialect, he 
achieved a fame that became transatlantic. His voice was 
heard with respect in the councils of his University, and his 
position as a scholar and litterateur was fittingly acknowledged 
when he was asked to be the first editor of " The Aberdeen 
University Review." His was a richly-dowered personality, 
intellectual, imaginative, sun-lit, breeze-blown, exhaling kindli- 
ness, a personality we may well try to portray in fuller measure. 

If Disraeli could say he was born in a library, Alexander 
Mackie could say he was born in a garden. It was in that 
lovely oasis in treeless Buchan, the demesne of Delgaty Castle, 
that the boy first opened his eyes, September II, 1855, and 
there, from earliest infancy, he was reared in the very lap of 
nature. But, though Buchan-born, he was Banff-bred ; for his 
father, Joseph Mackie, was promoted to be head gardener at 
Duff House to the Earl of Fyfe, soon after Alexander's birth. 
Thus the boy grew up amid the picturesque and romantic 
surroundings of the ancient county town. 

The environment was such as to mould the impressionable 
mind of youth river, tree, and hill, the bloom of cultivated 
gardens, the surge of the untameable sea. Here the lad looked 



MEMOIR xi 

on Nature in her every mood of stern and fair, and here he 
spent a boyhood of tree-climbing, bird's-nesting, fishing, 
bathing, with spells of quiet reading in shady nooks a true 
nursling of mother earth. Such a boy was fitting father to 
the man who was so passionately devoted to nature, whether as 
found in urban garden, by river bank, or in the pages of 
well-loved poets. 

Of his liege lord, " the Earl," the boy naturally stood in 
wholesome awe, and to him, in those days of feudal vassalage, 
the radical outburst of Johnny Gibb, when he entered Macduff 
and found a street-name changed to " Duff Street," would, 
doubtless, have savoured of blasphemy " The fowk o' this 
place wud ca' their vera tykes aifter the Yerl o' Fife "- 
though in his lecturing days he used to quote the incident with 
great gusto. Of the Earl's son, the late Duke, who was only 
a few years his own senior, Alexander had many recollections, 
whether as haling him off to try his hand with a gun a ploy 
in which he was foiled by the youngster's obstreperous resist- 
ance or as bounteously dispensing Christmas cheer to the 
estate retainers and their families, and plying with viands the 
chubby- faced boy, now more complaisant to noblesse oblige, 
"We're sure Fatty can take another helping." 

An adventure in boyhood's days was to seek out the secluded 
spot where stood the family mausoleum of the Earl. Peeping 
through the iron latticework, and dimly descrying within the 
sable coffins, he doubtless remembered the while the eerie 
experience of Tarn o' Shanter. But the chief spot round 
which clustered romance was the Gallow Hill, where, tradition 
had it, Macpherson, the Rob Roy of the North, made his 
dramatic exit from life. The romantic story of the famous 
freebooter had a fascination for the imaginative boy. The 
outlaw's deeds of derring-do his capture by treachery at a 
market fair the picturesque circumstances of his execution on 
the Gallow Hill, when the hands of the town clock were put 



xii ALEXANDER MACKIE 

forward, to anticipate the messenger who was seen approaching 
afar off with a reprieve his playing on his own fiddle, beneath 
the gallows, the rant he had composed in prison, followed 
by his breaking of the instrument across his knee and flinging 
it into the grave that awaited him in all this, fiction though 
much of it undoubtedly was, the boy saw the material out of 
which Sir Walter's magic wand might have created a Waverley 
novel ; and the rollicking lilt of Burns's poem, " Macpherson's 
Farewell," was ever singing in his ears : 

" Sae rantingly, sae wantonly, 
Sae dauntingly gaed he ; 
He played a spring, and danced it round, 
Below the gallows tree." 

The boy had his first schooling at the Free Church Institu- 
tion in Macduff, and there, within sight and sound of the bay, 
the cries of the fishermen on board their smacks borne to him 
on the salt sea-breezes, he received instruction from that 
notable schoolmaster, David Renton. The lure of the sea 
was strong upon the young lad, as one may note in the sonnet 
where he pays tribute to the sterling worth of his old dominie ; 
and it was well for him, doubtless, that he met with no Salvation 
Yeo, to tempt him with tales of El Dorado beyond the seas. 

The El Dorado set before the boy was a much 
more sober affair the University ; and, as a preparation 
for that and its great athletic, the Bursary Competition, 
Alexander betook himself in 1870 to the Aberdeen 
Grammar School. Of his feelings on approaching that 
imposing pile, especially imposing after the humble build- 
ing in Macduff, he made in later years public confession. 
It was a crisp October morning, and, even with a University 
graduate to support him in his entrance to this new world, the 
stranger felt much abashed. The homely sight, however, of 
someone delving in his potato-garden on the slopes running 



MEMOIR xiii 

down to the Den Burn a someone who proved to be no less 
than the writing-master, Mr. Pope revived his drooping spirits. 
A teacher who could dig and hoe was a friendly omen, and the 
boy entered with cheerfulness on his career as a Grammarian. 

The school then consisted simply of five classes, and the 
newcomer entered Class IV., a part of the school where Mr. 
Pope did not hold sway, so that, whatever the lad's demerits 
were in caligraphy, he could at least plead he had never been a 
" Papist " ! He studied Livy and Virgil under the benign rule 
of the Rev. James Legge, while Beverly's rugged " versions " 
led little by little to the heaven of schoolboys, Sine Errore. 
Macarthur, the mathematical master, kept poor order in class, 
and was literally egged on to resign by his unruly pupils! 
Far other was the tone of the highest class, where the rector, 
Alexander Martin, held sway. Sternest of disciplinarians, he 
might have been the original Martinet. Under his teaching 
the pupils felt the full blast of the bracing Borealic Humanities, 
and, as true " grammarians," ground at accidence and syntax, 
" settled Hoti's business, properly based Oun, gave us the 
doctrine of the enclitic De," plodded Xenophon's weary 
parasangs, soaring their one flight in some of the odes of 
Anacreon, and so girt up their loins for the Olympic of the 
Bursary Competition. 

Alexander won the sixth bursary, and in October, 1872, 
took his way, a modest Bajan, to King's College. The Arts 
curriculum of those days was marked by breadth of scope 
rather than by the specialization of to-day. For the ordinary 
M.A. degree the student took seven subjects, amongst which he 
had to include representatives of languages, philosophy, mathe- 
matics, and science. Two chiefs divided the allegiance of the 
Aulton in those days Geddes and Bain, the one standing for 
the severe discipline of the classics, the other for a no less 
severe discipline in Logic and English. " Homer " was too 
striking a figure not to appeal to Alexander Mackie, and, 

B* 



xiv ALEXANDER MACKIE 

visiting King's College Chapel in after years, the latter wrote 

with enthusiasm how 

"the Knight, 

Whose hoary head and stately mien combine 
To make a picture regal, richly dight, 
The lessons reads, intoning hallowed words aright." 

But it was "Logic" who claimed the student's unquestioning 
homage. At his feet he sat with reverence, proving himself 
one of his most distinguished disciples, and, when he graduated 
M.A. in 1876, it was with the proud honour of the Seafield 
Gold Medal in English. 

With thoughts of the Church, Alexander Mackie entered 
the Free Church Divinity Hall, and spent three years there. 
Accompanied by his college friend, J. A. Selbie now Professor 
he also took a summer session at Tubingen, where, in a 
thoroughly German atmosphere, he studied theology mildly, the 
Teutonic tongue seriously, and formed first-hand impressions of 
academic and burgher life in the Fatherland. On his return to 
Aberdeen, he won the Lumsden Scholarship, for an essay on 
" The Augsburg Confession and Apology." 

But theology was not for him. The end of the three years 
left him unconvinced of his call to the Church. It was not so 
much that he bewailed with George Meredith the time and 
talents thrown away in the making of theological works with 
his strong philosophic bent there was a distinct attraction to 
Divinity as that the Robertson Smith heresy case and 
judgment cooled the young student's ardour as that of many 
another, warning him off to other pastures, if he would enjoy 
full freedom of intellect. Also, as assistant to Professor Bain 
in English and Logic a post he had obtained while still in the 
Divinity Hall he had already discovered his true vocation as 
a teacher and expositor of the word of literature. Accord- 
ingly, having ceased his University connection on the Pro- 
fessor's retirement in 1880, he threw in his lot with Miss 
Warrack, then Principal of the Union Place School for Girls. 



MEMOIR xv 

A woman of shrewd penetration, Miss Warrack soon realised 
the valuable asset she had got in the brilliant young graduate, 
and, six years later, when she withdrew from active teaching, 
she handed over to him the full management and control of the 
school, which from that date first in Union Place, later in 
Albyn Place was to be indissolubly linked with his name. 

Courage to undertake the principalship of a private school 
for girls came doubtless from that other momentous step which 
the young teacher had taken a short time before. On July 3, 
1884, in St. John's Church, Aberdeen, Alexander Mackie 
married Philippa Rattray, daughter of Dr. Robert Gordon 
Rattray, medical superintendent of the Aberdeen Royal 
Infirmary, and sister of his own class fellow, Dr. John M. 
Rattray. It was a marriage of true minds, and fair science 
frowned not on it, for Mr. P. J. Anderson was groomsman, 
while the speech of the occasion was made by Dr. Bain. A 
teacher herself, and an appreciative student of literature, Mrs. 
Mackie was admirably fitted to be the helpmeet of her husband 
in his scholastic enterprise. To the happy home she made for 
him at Ashprington, all can testify who had the privilege of 
entrance there. She was to her husband that mate of whom 
Stevenson sang : 

" Teacher, tender, comrade, wife, 
A fellow-farer true through life." 

The work accomplished by Mr. Mackie as an educationist 
was twofold. Partly it consisted in organising his school on 
the lines of the forward movement in the North of Scotland 
for the higher education of women, partly it consisted in his 
own work as a teacher of English. Excellence in the one 
capacity does not imply excellence in the other, but when they 
do meet, as they met in the person of Alexander Mackie, -the}' 
constitute, indubitably, a great teacher. 

What his personality meant to the school was soon seen in 
the popular name by which the latter was referred to among 



xvi ALEXANDER MACKIE 

outsiders " Mackie's School." Certain loyal pupils resented 
this as a misnomer, but really it was a compliment to the Head. 
Never was Head more entitled to claim, never was Head less 
likely to claim, " L'ecole, cest moi" 

It was truly a remarkable work that Mr. Mackie performed 
as a pioneer of women's higher education the more remark- 
able because done in a private school, with no grants or aid 
from Government or Education Departments, and all the 
expenditure and risks to be borne by the one private purse. 
It argued courage, enterprise, and a serene faith. If there 
were shoals and quicksands, you never knew from Mr. Mackie. 
His motto in life seemed to be that which the Roman Emperor 
gare to the Praetorian Guard on the eve of his death, 
Aequanimitas. 

The theorists were busy arguing for or against higher 
education for women. How far was it practicable, how far 
desirable? Should they have entrance to the University? If 
so, should every Faculty be open to them ? Were girls capable 
of the arduous struggle of the Bursary Competition? Was 
not the female brain lighter, avoirdupois, than the male ? Thus 
the controversialists. Alexander Mackie showed the accom- 
plished fact. 

It was a wide curriculum his school offered. Unfettered 
by boards or inspectors, he had more freedom of movement 
than the ordinary state-aided school, and could give due heed 
to the wishes of parents. His aim primarily was to offer to 
the girls of our well-to-do middle class a liberal education, 
with outlet to the University for those who so desired. From 
the heat and fever of competitive examinations he tried to 
keep free ; yet public confidence had to be won, and the surest 
way to attain that in the North, as elsewhere, was to be able 
to point to results. The University Local Examinations 
afforded him an excellent field of compromise, where his pupils 
might aim at a definite standard of attainment, prove their 



MEMOIR xvii 

mettle against other institutions, and yet breathe an air 
untainted by cramming. 

The variety of curriculum prevailing in such a school a 
private enterprise, be it ever remembered might well astonish 
the governors of our public schools. First, there were all the 
ordinary subjects taught in our elementary schools, the range 
of the school extending from Kindergarten Department to pre- 
paration for the University Preliminary Examinations. Then 
there were the subjects and accomplishments which once were 
the sole or chief educational garniture of the daughters of the 
better class music, dancing, drawing, and painting. Finally, 
in the upper school, there were the subjects essential for 
the University Local and Entrance Examinations English 
Language and Literature, Mathematics, Science, Languages 
ancient and modern. It was a many-branched curriculum, with 
hockey and tennis as recreations in the background. From 
morn till eve the school was ahum with activity, from the base- 
ment, where feet were " shod with the preparation of peace," 
to the top storey, where, appropriately enough, the elect held 
grave session of " Attic " Greek, reading Euripides to the 
melodious melancholy beneath of Chopin's waltzes. 

With Mr. Mackie as teacher of English, that Cinderella of 
the school course came to something like its own. Following 
the lead of Bain, he held there was no real barrier to the making 
of the native tongue as thorough an instrument of intellectual 
discipline as the reverend, hoary classics. In his hands, 
accordingly, Bain's Grammar became as formidable a weapon 
as was ever " Ruddiman " or " Melvin " to the disciples of 
Latin. Pupils developed an uncanny perception of suspended 
nominatives, split infinitives, and mixed metaphors ; they 
delighted , to flesh their maiden swords on all and sundry, 
plaguing even their happy-go-lucky fathers, much in the way 
that Socrates' young followers of old had plagued their com- 
fortable sires. That was the discipline of grammar, and in 



xviii ALEXANDER MACKIE 

the capable hands of Mr. Mackie it became something of what 
Bain claimed it to be, an exact science. 

In the study of literature, the same searching thoroughness 
was manifest. Following again his own master's precepts, as 
instilled and elaborated in his " Rhetoric and Composition," 
Mr. Mackie taught his pupils to analyse and compare the 
various arts and figures which went to make up an author's 
style. He did more : he himself edited two of Macaulay's 
essays " Milton " and " Warren Hastings " to illustrate these 
same laws of rhetoric ; and so kept ever before his pupils' 
eyes models of the critical analysis of style he wished them 
to cultivate. 

In such a method, clearly, no slipshod work was to be 
tolerated. Nor did the method of analysis explain away the 
rainbow of style. Rather it gave a new meaning and beauty 
to that rainbow, and at the same time enabled the pupil to 
justify the faith that was in her. Loose, vague talk on the 
beauties of an author's style was not permitted. " Padding " 
was an abomination. You had to give chapter and verse for 
your eulogy. For rhapsodies, whether on Tennyson or Keats, 
you were held to strict account. With a stodgy teacher the 
method might have become something of a weariness. Mr. 
Mackie's voice and enthusiasm were themselves an inspiration. 
The girls learned to think, observe, and reason, and the lesson- 
hour flew on wings. Delightfully discursive, he mingled the 
pleasant with the useful. He made the authors the intimate 
friends of his pupils, so that when, in after years, these visited 
the Lake district in England, it seemed like coming to some 
very familiar spot ; and, when a merry maiden married, she 
was sure to receive from her beloved Head Master an appro- 
priate gift of books, with some such counsel: 

"Forget not that with home and love it fares 
The better, when the soul can roam apart 
In fields of old Romance, where lofty thought 
And wisdom are in subtlest diction wrought." 



MEMOIR xix 

But, indeed, with English only in recent years taken seriously 
as a class subject, Mr. Mackie's eminence as a teacher of it 
is challenged by few. As a Head Master he invites comparison 
with other Heads. Where does he stand in that comparison ? 
What distinctive merits had he here? 

From amongst the many qualities which went to make up 
the sum total of Mr. Mackie's personality as a Head Master, the 
one that strikes us most now, in retrospect, was his splendid 
urbanity. You never saw him ruffled, or taken aback. He had 
gauged his material the most elusive, the most mercurial and 
in dealing with it he cultivated a large tolerance and equanimity. 
In this spirit he met the ups and downs of the day's teaching. 
It was no use getting flustered or depressed. One must strike 
a mean, preferably a happy one. One must be philosophical, 
he would say to impetuous youth burning with a sense of 
injustice ; one must compromise. For practical success in the 
affairs of life, especially in dealing with human nature, Horace's 
" golden moderation " is still the sure motto, and undoubtedly 
it was the keynote to Alexander Mackie's success as a school- 
master. 

Not but that he could use the " big bow-wow " on occa- 
sion, and with startling effect. The eye lightened, the voice 
thundered, the class melted. That was " Ercles' vein," however, 
and only for rare use. Usually sarcasm sufficed, or the well- 
known quizzical glance ; while, in the way of " lines," the repeti- 
tion of some purple patch of poetry made a pleasure of a 
penance, and many a youthful offender rejoiced to appear 
before the Head, and "bury the Great Duke with an empire's 
lamentation." 

Teachers, on the whole, tend to become abnormal in 
manner. Bitter experience drives them to hedge themselves 
with tricks and mannerisms. In private life they may regain 
the normal, but in school they are clothed with eccentricity. 
It is inexpedient for them to express themselves with the 



xx ALEXANDER MACKIE 

artlessness of the young giant, who, badgered the livelong day 
by a host of whipper-snappers, at last, like Othello, " perplex'd 
in the extreme," lifted up his voice in a woeful " Stop those 

d d ejaculations ! " A significant pause, a stony stare, a 

sarcastically inflected voice, a stilted meiosis, " We are not in a 
bear-garden, I presume " these are the teacher's regular and 
more effectual stock-in-trade, the shield under which he wins 
immunity from " the slings and arrows of outrageous " youth ; 
and so the rarest thing to find in a classroom is a gentleman of 
simple, conventional manners. Yet such was Mr. Mackie. 
Mannerisms and professional tricks he had none. His bluff, 
breezy manner swept the pupils along. Neither with them 
nor the members of his staff did he affect aloofness. In 
school, as out of it, he was the same debonair gentleman. His 
manner was entirely natural, simple, good-humoured, and both 
by pupils and teachers he was accordingly respected and loved. 
To the pupils, indeed, as the years went on, his manner became 
increasingly paternal, and one can appreciate it best by recalling 
the incident of a certain golden-haired cherub now a staid 
matron who once, when the Head was descending stairs from 
a class, sprang right on his astonished shoulders, and clasped 
him round the neck, with these ingenuous words, " Oh, Mr. 
Mackie!" 

Efficiency was everywhere. You could not better it in a 
public school. The staff received their time-table the day 
before the session began, and thereafter, within their own 
bounds, they had a free hand. There was no anxious shep- 
herding of the teachers. You knew your work, and were 
trusted to do it. 

The worth of the education given by such a school was put 
to the proof in extramural examination with complete success. 
The results, indeed, achieved in the University Local Examina- 
tions were sometimes phenomenal, as when one pupil made 100 
per cent, three years running! But, after all, the Locals were 



MEMOIR xxi 

light events compared with the University Preliminary and 
Bursary Competition Examinations, and it was the success of 
pupils in these, and in the University itself, that established 
the reputation of Albyn Place School as an intellectual 
seminary. Not that Mr. Mackie made any extravagant claims 
for the school, or allowed himself to be dazzled by the successes 
of brilliant pupils at college into turning his school into the 
approved University cram-shop. Over and over again, on 
Prize Day, when speaking with pleasure of the academic 
laurels won by former pupils, whether in classics or English, 
he soberly said these successes proved that, when they got the 
right type of student, able and diligent, they could furnish them 
forth for the University just as well as other more pretentious 
schools, but that still the main purpose of his school was to 
provide a liberal education for girls who had no ulterior goal in 
learning, and this, regardless of all the meretricious attractions 
of outside examinations. Less he could not have said, and, 
when one thinks of some of the students he sent straight to 
Aberdeen University, some of the most brilliant women 
graduates in classics or English that have ever passed through 
King's College, he might well have said more. 

But if, after all, the University receives only an elect few 
from our schools, whether of boys or of girls, what of the 
others ? Have we no means of judging the influence of school 
life on them in after years? It is a notorious fact that the 
English public schools, excellent as a training-ground for 
character, are singularly devoid of intellectual stimulus, so that 
still less in after-school days need one look to them for the 
fostering of their old pupils' interest in books. But even in 
our own secondary schools for boys in Scotland, despite, or, 
perhaps, as the result of the severe intellectual treadmill we 
endure there, we find our P.P. clubs containing every variety 
of section football, cricket, hockey, tennis, billiards, bridge 
except the one which would be the legitimate offspring of the 



xxii ALEXANDER MACKIE 

school education proper, the literary. The dramatic and 
the orchestral are the nearest approaches our F.P. clubs venture 
to the muses. Literature itself is verboten. 

Nor is it only the schools that are at fault. A course of 
the orthodox halls of learning seems to make wonderfully for 
jejuneness of mind in our academic dons. The questing spirit 
seems to evaporate, whether as the result of endless examina- 
tions, or an Ecclesiastes' sense of the vanity of it all, and we 
have that strangely ironical situation, the graduate, newly 
capped, leading classic of his year, gathering all his notebooks 
in his landlady's backyard, and making of them one huge 
bonfire! The perennial lovers of literature and learning who 
come from the University are few. We must seek them 
rather among the unacademic, those who have never known 
satiety of learning, infinite weariness of lectures and examina- 
tions, and strange as it may seem, we find these in the literary 
sections of the F.P. Clubs of Girls' Schools. 

Certainly, in Aberdeen these many years, one of the few 
flourishing literary societies attached to a professed seat of 
education we make no mention of freelance literary clubs, 
where kindred spirits naturally assemble has been the Albyn 
Place School F.P. Club ; and the existence of this Club we con- 
sider the best testimony to the system of education established 
and maintained in his school by Mr. Mackie. The Club was 
the outcome of a spontaneous desire on the part of former 
pupils, most of whom had never had any connection with the 
University, and many of whom were married, to keep up the 
study of English literature, which they had begun under such 
happy auspices in school days ; and, as such, it testified to the 
genuine interest in literature aroused in them by their master, 
as well as to the immunity they had enjoyed from surfeit of 
examinations. Year after year this Club has gone through 
a systematic syllabus of study. Sometimes a single author 
was studied, from the standpoints of life, letters, and one 



MEMOIR xxiii 

or two characteristic works, sometimes a couple of plays of 
Shakespeare were treated, when parts were allocated, the plays 
read through at the sessional meetings, and papers given by 
members of the Club, dealing with the characters and themes 
of the plays. Thus, at the end of the winter, this Philomath 
could feel it had accomplished a definite piece of work. 
Conducting the affairs of their society themselves, the F.P.'s 
could, of course, always rely on Mr. Mackie as mentor. It 
was he who kept them in conservative paths. With so many 
great books, certified masterpieces, ever-green, ever-refreshing, 
what need to stray away towards works that enjoyed, it might 
be, but a passing fame? The Albyn Place School F.P. Club 
is, to our mind, the finest tribute to the sanity and intellectual 
vitality of the school's system of education. 

The pupils rejoiced in any honour conferred on their Head. 
They knew him to be a force to be reckoned with outside his 
own classrooms, and thought his place on the committee of 
the city Public Library his rightful due ; but they were 
especially proud when he was appointed examiner in English 
for the University. The strength of the sentiment which 
gradually gathered round the school was seen on the occasion 
of Mr. Mackie's attaining his majority as Principal, when he 
received from pupils past and present a handsome American 
roll-top desk and a silver service. At the same time Miss 
Marshall, so long his faithful coadjutor, was presented with a 
lamp and a number of books. The presentation was made by 
the Rev. Dr. Danson, who, in humorous fashion, declared the 
education given in the school to be such as might alarm any 
parent who had to speak in public. On Sunday, when he was 
doing his very best to be impressive, he knew his daughters 
were on the outlook for the " mis-related participle," and his 
lunch was frequently spoiled by his being told, when he thought 
he had been particularly brilliant, that there was a want of 
connection, or that there was some mixture of figures of speech, 



xxiv ALEXANDER MACKIE 

or that the metaphor did not last quite long enough to be 
effective and then he said, " Bless the name of Mr. Mackie." 
But far more than intellectual guidance was the guidance of 
character, and there, he thought, the pupils of Albyn Place 
School would take rank with the very best in the land. Mr. 
Mackie had led the whole of the North of Scotland in intel- 
lectual results, but the other results, the speaker dared say, 
would not be known till the revelation of the Great Day. Dr. 
Danson paid a fitting tribute also to Mrs. Mackie, to whom 
her husband owed the charming influence of domestic happiness. 
In a reminiscent reply, Mr. Mackie remarked on the changeful 
panorama of human life which unfolded in school, year after 
year, as the young pupil of five or six years wrought her way 
gradually up the ladder of the school, till she reached the 
happy day when she put up her hair. Already history was 
repeating itself, and he was teaching children's children. He 
found an element of pathos in it, and could not help appro- 
priating to himself that stanza of Tennyson: 

" Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail, 
That brings our friends up from the underworld, 
Sad as the last which reddens over one 
That sinks with all we love below the verge ; 
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more." 

Altogether, it was a red-letter day in the history of the school, 
as well as in the career of the Principal. 

Not that there was any standing still, or lying back on the 
oars. At Prize Day, that annual stocktaking of schools, the 
Head made it clear he regarded his curriculum, excellent as it 
was, not as a sofa, but a ladder. For long he pondered the 
question of opening his school to Departmental Inspection. 
It meant probably a curtailment of personal liberty, a certain 
initial expenditure, while it opened up larger fields for his 
pupils. The need of providing entrance for his students to the 
Domestic Science School determined him finally, and in 191 1 



MEMOIR xxv 

the Albyn Place School was declared under Government 
Inspection. It meant the setting up and equipping of a Science 
Laboratory, and various architectural alterations. But all this 
was faced ungrudgingly, in the full hope and belief that it 
would make for the increased usefulness of the school. Pity 
only was that he who sanctioned the changes should not have 
lived long enough to see his hopes fully materialize. 

The motto of the Albyn Place School, which was chosen 
for it by Mr. Mackie's lifelong friend, Mr. W. Keith Leask, 
was Vigor et Juventas, and the Principal of the school was its 
living embodiment. To teach, as well as lead, in such a school, 
might have been enough, one would have thought, to occupy 
the man's whole energy. But it was far from doing so, and 
his activity had many other phases. 

An ardent lover of nature, and a keen angler, he was always 
ready, when occasion offered, to doff his professional garb, and 
don the tweeds of the fisher. Never was there a more enthusi- 
astic votary of the rod. He knew every stream and rill of the 
North, was expert alike with worm or fly, and, in the quest of 
his sport, enjoyed equally the silence of the river pool, or the 
" blown seas and stormy showers "of Cape Wrath. 

Like most seasoned anglers, he met with some strange 
adventures in the practice of his art, as when he passed a night 
on an islet in mid-stream, perched upon the branch of a tree, 
with the flood, which had descended suddenly, all round him. 
Aught pertaining to the gentle art was of interest to him, 
and it is questionable if, in certain moods, Herbert Spencer 
did not appeal to him more as an angler than as a philosopher ! 

Of his art he wrote copiously, whether in " The Aberdeen 
Free Press " or " The Scottish Field," and with a happy freedom 
from technicality, and a frank joy in open-air life, which made 
whatever he wrote a pleasure to read, even when it was a 
practical treatise such as that standard work on its subject, 
" The Art of Worm Fishing." He had collected many of these 

C 



xxvi ALEXANDER MACKIE 

fugitive pieces for a volume, " By Flood and Field," which 
would have vindicated for him the claim to be considered the 
Scottish Walton. But even the few pieces which we have 
culled, almost at random, from the riches of that volume, and 
the chapter in " Worm Fishing " entitled " A Hill Burn," would 
suffice to show that angling meant for Alexander Mackie far 
more than the capture of fish. It was for him a never- failing 
" open sesame " to the beauties and joys of nature. None could 
understand better than he the truth of Burns's words : 

" The Muse, nae Poet ever fand her, 
Till by himsel he learn'd to wander, 
Adown some trottin burn's meander, 
An' no think lang." 

Such poetic mood in Alexander Mackie's case, it is true, was 
expressed as often in prose as in verse, but the poetic quality 
was there. The joie de vivre, the pleasure in the simple sights 
and sounds of nature the springing flowers by the river bank, 
the carolling birds, the brawling brook all this was present 
to him, though the basket might be empty. This was where 
he differed from the phlegmatic flogger of rivers. In his 
sojourning by the green pastures and still waters he felt that 
healing-power of nature whereof the poets have written, and 
it inspired him, too, albeit in lowlier wise, with an emotion 
afterwards remembered in tranquillity. 

So was it with his other pastime of gardening it gave him 
health, joy, the outdoor life he loved, contact with the good 
brown earth, while ever he found some fresh point of com- 
munion with the poets. Both nature and nurture made 
Alexander Mackie a gardener. Little wonder, then, that in 
school session or vacation he spent his spare hours so zealously, 
sowing and planting, delving and pruning. He knew every 
flower and tree on his way to school, and nothing delighted 
pupils so much of a morning as to walk with the Head 
down Fountainhall Road and Albyn Place, and hear him 



MEMOIR xxvii 

expatiate on tree and shrub and flower. One sees him yet, 
with his " glorious morning face," compact of body, stepping 
along with short, brisk steps, the silver-headed stick swinging 
in his hand, a maid or two at his side lending rapt ear to his 
sermonette on the tares in the Queen's Cross Church precinct 
the dandelions, to wit or to his remarks on some floral 
or arboreous vagary in the Queen's Terrace gardens. For 
Nature he had the seeing eye and understanding heart, out of 
the fullness of which he could write his rhapsody on Spring, 
" From Bud to Leaf," or moralize, in something of the melan- 
choly Jacques' vein, on " The Tree Artistic and the Tree 
Commercial " ; or, bringing to bear his own penetrating and 
sincere observation of nature, write such a work of intimate 
and nice interpretation as " Nature Knowledge in Modern 
Poetry," a work to which it was pleasant to see complimentary 
reference made, the other month, in a leading review in " The 
Spectator." 

But, with the fall of the leaf, and the shortening day, the 
rod and the spade were laid aside for a season, and the book- 
lover ensconced himself in his study. In the Aberdeen 
Philosophical Society the disciple of Bain found congenial 
companionship. At one time president, he was latterly secre- 
tary, and it was probably through him that the scope of the 
Society's papers widened, so as to take in lectures on many sub- 
jects, not primarily philosophical. Here, too, perhaps, as in 
education, he read the signs of the times, and saw a generation 
growing up which knew not " Logic," and which, like Brutus 
of old, was to confess philosophy a cold mistress. That he did 
wisely no one can gainsay. Two notable contributions of his 
own, " The Homeric Simile in Modern Poetry " and " The 
Ludicrous in Burns," had the honour of being included in the 
Society's l( Transactions." 

As a frequent writer of special articles in the daily press, he 
had a distinct outlet for his literary gifts. Of fishing, and 



xxviii ALEXANDER MACKIE 

gardening, and the moods of nature associated with these, he 
wrote, as already noted, abundantly ; but he was equally happy 
in catching the mood of a great occasion, whether it was 
the opening of a new church, the visit of a famous preacher, 
or the epic Quatercentenary celebrations of our Northern 
University. His interest in education found scope in his many 
notable reviews of educational works, while the genuine 
bibliophile came out in his frank delight at the discovery of 
some " new " Beattie letters, which he afterwards published in 
the form of a brochure. Alike in the number and the nature 
of his interests, he reminded one often of Andrew Lang. 

Like most practical teachers, Mr. Mackie wrote little on 
the theory of his calling. It was sufficient to attain a working 
creed. That he was profoundly interested in the theoretical 
aspect of his vocation was to be seen in his bold bid for the 
Chair of Education in St. Andrews, when it became vacant 
in 1902 ; but his was too rich and human a personality to be 
punished by a chair, and a sigh of relief went up from pupils, 
past and present, when they realized their school was still to be 
" Mackie's School." Among his manuscripts we have come 
across only one paper bearing distinctly on education, 
" Parental influence in education is it on the decline ? " this 
amid a multitude of papers on literary topics and the inference 
is, that, as a schoolmaster, he had worked out a practical faith, 
and held by it without fear or doubt. Of what that faith 
consisted is seen admirably in the many reviews of educa- 
tional works he wrote to the daily press. It is from his obiter 
dicta in these reviews we gather explicitly what otherwise we 
could see to be the implicit faith of the practical teacher. 
Very interesting is it to find him deploring in those ante-bellum 
days the tendency of our nation to become a slavish imitator of 
German educational methods and systems. He even deprecated 
too much deferring to English modes, as opposed to our own 
national idiosyncrasies. As was to be expected, he was staunch 



MEMOIR xxix 

in upholding the worth and discipline of a course in English 
Language and Literature, and, while frankly acknowledging 
the incontestable merits of a classical education, he was wishful 
to reserve it for those really capable of benefiting by it. It is 
all very sane, very sober, very patriotic, what he says, and 
entirely of a piece with his own living practice. 

But his direct contribution to the literature of education was 
not in theory so much as in actual manuals for use in school. 
Such were his editions, already mentioned, of Macaulay's 
" Milton " and " Warren Hastings," such, too, his " Marmion," 
and such again, in most notable wise, was his " Aberdeenshire," 
in the " Cambridge County Geographies." In that volume his 
unique knowledge of his native shire, as well as his charming 
literary style, found full and fitting expression. It was a 
masterpiece of its kind, and " Banffshire," in the same series, 
on which he was busy at the time of his death, would have been 
its worthy peer. 

As the freelance journalist, Mr. Mackie chose his theme 
and wrote of it without effort. He struck a rich vein in the 
series of articles he wrote for " The Scottish Field " on the 
Secondary Schools of Scotland, but, indeed, he touched nothing 
that he did not adorn. He was a master of the mot juste, 
and had a rich rotundity of diction, while his literary allusive- 
ness gave charm to the most ordinary theme. It was not merely 
that he was ready with apt quotation yet what could be neater, 
for instance, than the quotation, at the beginning of " The Art 
of Worm Fishing," taken from " Richard II," " Let's talk of 
worms " ? but, far more subtle and elusive, he could make his 
writing convey, by some deft word or phrase, the aroma of the 
masters of literature. 

Making no claim to be a poet, he yet wrote much occasional 
verse that "was excellent, and as a sonneteer he paid many a 
generous tribute to the men of mark he had numbered among 
his friends. He had a Horatian sense of the fitness of things, 

C* 



xxx ALEXANDER MACKIE 

and evidently felt the sonnet to be the correct measure of his 
poetic strength. Certainly, in serious vein, it was his favourite 
milieu of expression. Alfred Austin's blundering verse during 
the Boer War : 

" From English hamlet, Irish hill, 

Welsh hearths, and Scottish byres, 
They throng to show that they are still 
Sons worthy of their sires" 

drew some caustic verses from Alexander Mackie : 

"The English bacon holds the field, 
'Tis fed in sties ; who e'er appealed 
To such as fitting homes to shield 

Their cultured squires ? 
That honour now a bard has sealed 

On Scottish byres." 

But, as a rule, his verses, when not blithely piscatorial, are 
touched with tender regret, and a sense of the tears of things. 
His essays in the vernacular, both prose and verse, are racy 
of the soil, and approve him, what his lecturing affirmed him 
to be, a master of the Doric. 

His distinguished ability as a writer, as well as his sound 
literary judgment, met with suitable recognition when the idea 
of a University Review was mooted in the General Council 
of his Alma Mater. All eyes turned to Alexander Mackie as 
the right man for Convener of the Editorial Sub-Committee, 
and nobly he filled the post till his death. 

Nor did readiness as a writer retard in his case readiness 
as a public speaker. His fertility in literary quotation, linked 
to a rich vein of humour and a delightful bonhomie of manner, 
won him acknowledgment as one of the post-prandial orators of 
Bon-Accord. His speech at the " Hamewith " dinner to 
Charles Murray was a memorable triumph in a field partic- 
ularly congenial to him ; while at the St Andrew's Dinners, 
where, on more than one occasion, he had the toast of " Provost 



MEMOIR xxxi 

Davidson and the Heroes of Harlaw," his speeches were 
admirable alike for the resume he gave of the historical issues, 
and the grace of imagination with which he indicated the fine 
materials lying ready to kindle at the touch of the novelist 
materials which the Great Wizard himself had only relinquished 
in favour of " The Fair Maid of Perth." An excellent example 
of his blending of humour with sentiment was afforded on the 
occasion of the dinner given by the Grammar School P.P. Club 
in honour of the veteran drawing master, Mr. Samuel Pope. In 
giving that toast Mr. Mackie was able to sing the praises of his 
own pastimes, fishing and gardening, which he did con amore ; 
but very adroit was the skill with which he made the Pope of 
literature yield homage to the Pope of art, as when he quoted 
the lines from " Solitude " : 

" Happy the man, whose wish and care 

A few paternal acres bound, 
Content to breathe his native air 

In his own ground. 
Blest, who can unconcern'dly find 

Hours, days, and years, slide soft away 
In health of body, peace of mind, 

Quiet by day, 
Sound sleep by night." 

And again, while humorously claiming Samuel as a much 
bigger man than Alexander, both in body and spirit, he credited 
the latter with good common sense on the former's great craft 
of penmanship : 

"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, 
As they move easiest who have learned to dance." 

But it was as a popular lecturer that Alexander Mackie 
attained his chief fame as a public speaker. To literary 
societies and clubs he had long been familiar for his fine gifts 
of exposition, ranging with fine catholicity of taste from " The 
Vicar of Wakefield " and Jane Austen to " The Ring and the 



xxxii ALEXANDER MACKIE 

Book " and Thomas Hardy. But when he stepped forth as a 
lecturer on the " braid Scots," especially as found in Dr. William 
Alexander's " Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk," he quickly won a 
fame far more than local. In him there was a most happy 
blend of the cultured scholar and the gifted elocutionist, so 
that his lecture was a literary treat as well as an elocutionary 
tour de force. In his prefatory remarks he would discuss the 
literary merits of Dr. Alexander's masterpiece, drawing com- 
parisons with other notable works or characters of the same 
genre, and then he would proceed to illustrate his remarks with 
readings from the book itself. To the fifteenth edition of the 
book he wrote an admirable preface, comprising most of what 
he gave as introduction to his lecture, while a volume of " Read- 
ings in Modern Scots " was a sort of supplement to his Doric 
activities. Indeed, it is not without a sense of irony one reads 
the gibe of that per fervid Scot, Mr. J. M. Bulloch, when 
jeering at an Anglified Aberdeen " Albyn Place English " 
remembering all that an Albyn Place schoolmaster did for 
the revival of our ancient " Lallan' tongue." 

Up and down the countryside, then, Mr. Mackie gave his 
lecture, to literary clubs, guilds, and mutual improvement societies 
innumerable ; and his school pupils grew familiar with the great 
fur coat hanging on the hall-stand the disciple of Bain had 
inherited the master's mantle literally as well as spiritually 
which told them the Head would be off again that evening to 
some rural hall to deliver his lecture. But still the cry came 
from further afield, till in 1913 the appeal came from across 
the ocean, " Come over into Canada and delight us." After 
some hesitation Mr. Mackie made arrangements for the conduct 
of the school in his absence, and set off across the Atlantic, to 
discourse to brother Scots in exile on Meg Raffan the henwife, 
the loves of Tam Meerison and Jinse Deans, and Mrs. Birse 
of Clinkstyle and her " kitchie kyaaks." New York, Niagara, 
Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal he visited ; right into the heart 



MEMOIR xxxiii 

of the Rockies he toured, spending his last Christmas but one 
in the other Banff, and sending thence his Christmas greetings 
to the family party gathered at home. His pen was busy all 
the time, describing his voyage, St. Andrew's Day in New York, 
a visit to the Falls, an endeavour to hear " the Sky Pilot " in 
his own church, the life, and the motley civilization which 
peoples the wide spaces of Canada. 

The pace may have been too severe, the sharpness of the 
cold, especially after coming out of heated halls, may nave 
told on him ; at anyrate, he had not long been welcomed back 
to his native country, when unpleasant symptoms of throat 
trouble manifested themselves, and, to the amazement of all 
who knew him, Alexander Mackie was reported ill! 

To one who all his life had enjoyed the most robust health, 
who had been active and accustomed to be out of doors, illness, 
when it came, must have come with a terrible shock. That this 
man, seemingly in the plenitude of his vigour, should be struck 
down with illness, seemed incredible. But it was so, and, strive 
as he might, the malady overpowered him. The spirit, however, 
was still the same alert, buoyant, greeting the unseen with a 
cheer, and he fought gamely to the last. For long he continued 
to come to school, though he never attempted to teach. He 
moved to and fro in the familiar haunts, with that pathetic 
wistfulness of human nature when out of joint, seeking, as it 
were, by make-believe and pursuit of the old accustomed rounds 
of duty, to regain its wonted poise. But the time came when 
he had to forgo even that. 

Once we met him on the hill, with its outlook over our 
fair city, the city of silver-gleaming spires. While the ruddy 
hue and sturdy gait were the same, we grieved to note the 
failure in the voice, that voice with its rich harmonics, which, 
in days gone by, we had so oft admired, as it vibrated through 
the lecture-hall, descanting on the Aberdeenshire Doric and 
the immortal "Johnny." But, as we walked down the hill 



xxxiv ALEXANDER MACKIE 

together, his words had the true optimistic ring. Personally he 
must just go easy for a bit. The War had begun, and none of 
us knew yet how things were to be affected. Education he 
reckoned on being hit badly. This 1915 would be a poor 
vintage educationally, but we should pull through. 

An English mistress had been engaged at the beginning of 
the session, to do Mr. Mackie's teaching; and staff and pupils, 
with the shadow of their Head's illness upon them, strove loyally 
to uphold the name and prestige of the school. The last day 
of the session came, the 25th of June, 1915. There was to be 
no formal prize-giving as in former years, such was the Head's 
express wish. Let it have quiet close. And so she, who all 
those months had borne so faithfully the burden of her father's 
work, came home, to show the kindly gift she had received from 
affectionate pupils, and tell the glad news that the session 
was finished, and the school closed for the vacation. The 
tired fighter heard with a smile and slept. It was indeed 
finished. 

A former pupil has remarked, with true insight, on Mr. 
Mackie's dislike of the pageantry of Enoch Arden's funeral ; 
and well it was that his own obsequies were carried out so 
simply and quietly, just as he would have wished. The mortal 
part of him was followed by a concourse of mourners in the 
bright sunshine of a June afternoon, down the broad open way, 
past smiling gardens and the wayside bloom of yellow broom, 
the way of flowers he ever loved, to the fairest-seeming, 
certainly the fairest-named of all our city's cemeteries Spring- 
bank. There we left him, " our master, famous, calm, and 
dead." 

Grief was widespread in the North at the death of Mr. 
Mackie, and many a kindly tribute was paid by friends and 
admirers far from Aberdeen. Especially was regret expressed 
that he who had been such a distinguished son of our Northern 
University, so versatile and withal so devoted to his Alma 



MEMOIR xxxv 

Mater, should have failed to be laureated by her. It was just 
to such men as he and Gavin Greig, the much-toiling school- 
masters who gave of their dear- won leisure to literary and 
learned pursuits, that an honorary doctorate would have been 
a fair guerdon, and it did not come. Doubtless the University 
meant to honour him ; they would do it soon, they would think 
on't. Meanwhile he died. 

But Alexander Mackie did not gloom. His was that fine 
equipoise of spirit which does not chafe at lack of worldly 
glory, and the piece of work to which he clung to the last was 
the "Review" in whose welfare he was so bound up. Mr. Keith 
Leask has shown him, in vivid phrase, even when the fell 
clutches of his malady were on him, struggling to decipher 
illegible contributors. The man, in sickness as in health, was 
clear-purposed, single-aimed : 

" What are we set on earth for ? Say, to toil ; 
Nor seek to leave thy tending of the vines 
For all the heat o' the day, till it declines, 
And Death's mild curfew shall from work assoil. 
God did anoint thee with His odorous oil, 
To wrestle, not to reign." 

But sure of the abiding affection of troops of friends, what 
need had such a man of external honour? There are those who 
knew him in school and college days who may speak of him 
familiarly as " Sandy Mackie " ; there is one to whom he will 
ever be " Gushets " ; but, for the multitude of those who knew 
him in connection with his own school, to recall a great teacher 
and a man of most lovable ways, it will ever suffice simply 
to speak of " Mr. Mackie." 



SUNSET AND SUNRISE 

MATTHEW ARNOLD made it a fatal objection to 
miracles that they do not happen. No doubt his 
argument was sound ; and yet, if we are not to be 
very precise in the use of words, they are happening every 
day. The daily-repeated glories of sunset and sunrise have, 
from their familiarity, lost all trace of the miraculous, and 
have passed into the light of common things. All the same, 
when viewed with the poetic and not the philosophic eye, they 
have a mystery, an awe-inspiring grandeur and sublimity about 
them sufficient to justify some such epithet. Our modern 
facilities in the use of artificial light and our consequent late 
hours cut us off, especially in the summer months, from appre- 
ciating the beauties of the dawn. The roysterer who does not 
go home till morning has his compensations. The invalid who 
suffers from insomnia may see, but is hardly in a mood to 
sympathise, and the night watchman, going his rounds, is as 
a rule too prosaic in mental texture to rise to the height of 
this sublime mystery. We have trudged through the semi- 
darkness of a midsummer night to hail the sun's uprising on 
Lochnagar ; we have seen the miracle evolve as we were 
whirled through France in a Continental train ; and we have 
in Norwegian waters lounged on the deck of the steamer till 
the new day broke. It is impressive always and everywhere ; 
but, after all,- it carries most effect when it and you are alone 
together. 

When the rivers are so low and clear that no angler, how- 



2 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

ever skilful, can hope to make a basket at ordinary hours, one 
has to avoid the brighter part of the day, and under cover of 
the dusk, when the fish are less acute in vision and somewhat 
off their guard, a successful catch may be made. Moreover, 
the angler may at the same time feast his soul with phenomena 
of nature not ordinarily seen. On the rare days one in ten 
when all the circumstances are favourable, he will be more 
than rewarded for the temporary disturbance of his usual 
routine of slumber. 

You make a start in the evening when the sun is low in the 
red north-west, and, being privileged by a generous friend, 
get your boat out into the river, then row silently to the head 
of your favourite pool. The water is smooth as glass ; the 
trout are not yet on the rise, and, while you whistle for a 
breeze, you have time to look round and make note of what 
is passing in the upper air. Forces that gave no sign during 
broad day are now coming into activity. The rush of the river 
over the waterfall, some five hundred yards below, that was 
quite unheard and apparently noiseless in the stir of the active 
life of day, is now distinctly resonant in the placid evening air. 
A peacock at the manor-house puts up his nightly screaming 
prayer for rain ; a belated bumble-bee hums drowsily on his 
homeward way. Two water-pipers, their bright plumage lit 
up by the sunset glow, fly high overhead, sounding their shrill 
whistle. A wild duck leads forth warily from the sedges her 
little brood, sadly thinned since last week when you saw them 
first ; for, with the advent of August, duck shooting becomes 
legal, and the guns have been busy. They are even now at 
work, and the echoes are wakened by a sudden report farther 
up the river. The water-rails bob in and out amongst the 
reeds and long grasses of the bank, uttering their harsh and 
angry croaks of alarm as they detect your unwelcome presence. 
A water-vole plumps off the bank and takes an oblique course 
across the stream, head in air, and sniffing suspiciously as he 



SUNSET AND SUNRISE 3 

becomes aware of interlopers in his haunts. Secure from 
attack all day, lying perdu under the protecting thick herbage 
of the water edge, they issue forth on their nightly prowl. 

Meantime little breezes begin to shiver on the surface, and 
the plump-plump and oily bubble of trout, rising in a way 
that means business, withdraw your attention to your rod, 
which you ply with care, keeping your flies on the move. At 
first it is rather still and not dark enough, and you have the 
usual proportion of misses ; these, however, only add zest to 
the sport, and you bide your time. Some accidents, too ; a 
heavy fish just takes your fly as you are in the act of making 
a fresh cast, and snips off your point hook ; then one head- 
strong fellow gets under the boat, where he has no business 
to be, and makes complications ; another rushes for the islet 
of weeds ranunculus aquatilis, white in flower with a shrewd 
guess that that way safety lies. Worst of all is when a lively 
fish takes a dropper fly, and, trailing the tail of the cast line 
behind him, makes a ravelled skein of it, which no art can 
disentangle in the dark an argument for using but one fly 
at such a time. The only thing to be done in this case is to 
put the problem aside for solution in daylight and substitute a 
fresh cast. It is now past ten you heard it strike on the 
village clock and, there being much cloud, it is well-nigh 
dark. The fringe of trees on the left bank shows black 
between you and the lighter north. On the right is pasture 
grass, amongst which a presumably tuberculous ox keeps up 
at intervals his consumptive and very human cough. The 
swallows have ceased to compete with the denizens of the 
river for the swarms of ephemerae, but their place is taken by 
numerous bats, which show a determination to inspect the 
point of your rod, and thereby cause you no end of annoyance. 

As the night deepens, what little breeze you had dies 
away, the clouds dissipate as if at the stroke of a magician's 
wand, and a full moon, low in the sky and of an ampler round 



4 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

than usual, pours her beams upon the shimmering water a 
perfect illustration of Wordsworth's word-picture : 

" The moon doth with delight 
Look round her when the heavens are bare." 

The trout continue to rise, and you have an occasional addi- 
tion to your basket, but they show a disinclination to be 
deceived. It is evident that, from their coign of vantage and 
with your flies between them and the moon, they are able to 
distinguish the artificial and the real. You are wise, there- 
fore, to rest on your oars for a time, and give yourself up to 
contemplation of the beauties of the night and woo the 
soft influence of the hour. Without some resource of this 
sort you would be dismal, and would be sure to beat a retreat 
homewards ; but the genuine angler has thoughts beyond mere 
fish. 

What are the charms of the pastime? There are those 
whose only notion of the sport is Dr. Johnson's definition 
" A fool at one end of a rod and a worm at the other." 
Votaries of cricket and golf laugh it to scorn as slow and 
making too many demands on patience. No doubt the angler 
is happiest when his basket is full, as the golfer is presumably 
in his best humour when he scores well ; but that is not the 
whole case. The charm of it is indescribable and incom- 
municable ; to be understood, it must be felt. Apart from the 
opportunities it affords for observation and the healthful 
exercise in the open air which it has in common with other 
sports, its greatest fascination lies in the glorious uncertainty 
of every moment. You never know what the next minute will 
produce ; when things are at their very worst, you may be on 
the point of hooking a record fish. Until he is safe in your 
landing-net, however, the uncertainty remains, and adds to that 
exhilaration of feeling which is unintelligible to the non- 
angler. To lose your night's rest and forgo your comfortable 



SUNSET AND SUNRISE 5 

bed, to stand in an open boat for hours in the dark, seems 
idiotic to those who do not sympathise. Cricket must seem 
equally futile to the uninitiated. Happily, we are not all 
constituted alike ; but, as De Quincey put it, " Not to 
sympathise is not to understand." 

Slowly the moving moon climbs up the sky, until the land- 
scape stands out with a clearness and distinctness little short 
of broad daylight. In the absence of a breeze, the bright- 
ness is fatal to your success, and after midnight you secure 
little or nothing, and might as well be in bed, only you await 
the turn of events. A chill dew begins to fall, and you are 
fain to keep the oars going, and thus combat the period of 
minimum temperature. At two comes a faint lightening in 
the north-east, a greyish tint that heralds the approaching 
dawn and gradually pales the ineffectual fires of the satellite. 
The birds begin to twitter in the trees at first a mere tweet- 
tweet, by and by a more extended note ; but the time of the 
singing of birds is gone, and the concert of April and May 
is played out. The sweet coo-coo-coo of the ringdove is in 
perfect harmony with the placid morning. Less so the more 
defiant crowing of the cocks. They cheerily rouse the 
slumbering morn to good purpose, and the challenges are 
volleyed from farm-yard to farm-yard, until you hear them 
answered by " faintly echoing farms remote." The wild 
fowl make for their coverts ; every minute the circle of light 
broadens and expands, red and gold begin to fleck the slowly- 
sailing clouds, and at four the King of Day, the source and 
fount of light, himself appears in person, mounting over the 
horizon with a jubilant rush and once more the miracle is 
complete. As you moor your boat and make ready for home, 
Tennyson's " Tithonus " rings in your ears : 

" And the wild team 

Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise, 
And shake the darkness from their loosen'd manes, 
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire." 

D 



THE SILVER DEE 

HPHE Spey is swift, the Don is slow, 

1 The Deveron strikes a happy mean ; 
But north or south, where'er I go, 

There's none can match my river-queen, 
The silver Dee. 

From linn to sea she glides along 
O'er granite bed and pebbles grey, 

Singing a sweet and endless song, 

And changing oft from grave to gay, 
The silver Dee. 

Among the giant, frowning hills 

That link our noble Grampian chain, 

She takes her birth and gathers rills 
From crystal springs and filtered rain, 
The silver Dee. 

The golden eagle's wings outspread 
Are pictured in her mirror blue ; 

The red-deer sees his antlered head, 
Tine above tine, reflected true 
In silver Dee. 

She gambols with Braeriach's feet, 
She kisses Ben Macdhui's knee ; 

And playmates more, of name unmeet, 
She frolics with, in childish glee, 
The silver Dee. 

6 



THE SILVER DEE 

Through wild Braemar her waters glide, 
Past Invercauld they make their way ; 

Grim Lochnagar looks down with pride, 
Balmoral smiles a greeting gay 
To silver Dee. 

The progeny of mountain-kings, 
She hath a lofty, queenly grace ; 

And now to kings and queens she sings, 
Who love to look upon the face 
Of royal Dee. 

Mile after mile she broader grows, 

For Gairn and Muick their tribute bring; 

And rushing Feugh her melted snows 
Secretes beneath the warmer wing 
Of silver Dee. 

To Ballater she comes amain, 

And soon Aboyne she passes by; 

Though townships give her many a stain, 
She keeps a clear and sparkling eye, 
The silver Dee. 

At last she tastes, by Allenvale, 
The brackish waters of the tide ; 

Her eyes grow dim, her spirits fail, 
And soon the ocean's breakers hide 
The silver Dee. 



THE SULLEN DON 

THEY call me sullen, call me slow, 
And slow and sullen moods are mine, 
As through the level haughs and low, 
1 creep, before I plunge in brine. 

Kintore and Thainstone check my pace, 
Parkhill, Kinaldie curb my speed, 

And when I reach Balgownie's base, 
I'm black and grim and dour indeed. 

For there I know my race is run, 
My earthly course is near its close, 

There looms a fate I cannot shun 
The doom that greedy seas impose. 

I'm sad, reluctant, loth to go, 
For Ocean's jaws are open wide, 

And Ocean's teeth are white as snow, 
And in her maw I needs must hide. 

But see me where the brown hills rise 
Far away from the salt sea's breath, 

I'm swift and bright with sparkling eyes 
That know not fear of gloomy death. 
8 



THE SULLEN DON 

Along my heather banks I course 

Or dance with glee from pool to pool ; 

I'm full of life and youthful force, 

Like playful boys let loose from school. 

Corgarff, Allargue and Candacraig 
I leave behind in buoyant mood, 

I brush Poldullie, Bellabeg, 

And many a bridge and many a wood. 

I skirt Ben Newe, Culquoich the fair, 
Glenkindie, Brux and Alford's meads, 

And then with blandest smile repair 
To Monymusk and Kemnay's reeds. 

The Ernan, Nochty join their threads, 
The Deskry, Bucket tribute bring, 

The Mossat, Leochel hide their heads 
Like birds beneath their mother's wing. 

But Urie clouds my spirits gay, 
I feel myself more sober grow, 

Life's cares their hold upon me lay, 
And thus it is, I sullen flow. 



D* 



THE DEVERON 



F7ROM Cabrach's Buck she sallies forth 

r* 

And, gathering rills within her bed, 
Meanders east, meanders north, 

Till in the restless Moray Firth she hides her head. 



A sweeter stream, from hill to sea, 

You will not find in all this isle ; 
She's merry with a modest glee, 

And masks her graver moods with coy and sunny smile. 

Blackwater, Bogie, Isla deep 

Bring each a hearty tribute in, 
To feed the growing stream and keep 

Her brimming waves above the rocks that lie within. 

Then sweeps she wider, full and gay, 

Past shining wood and cosy farm, 
Where stands thy Milltown, Rothiemay, 

A sleeping hamlet, bound in leafy hedgerows warm. 



THE DEVERON 11 

By Corniehaugh and Mayen's braes 

To Marnoch bridge she saunters on, 
Shoots the proud arch in haste, but stays 

Where springs to view Kinnairdy's keep, its glory gone. 

At Forglen's woods she slacks her rein 

As loth to leave such beauteous bowers, 
Through Eden's meads she sweeps amain, 

Flashing a friendly eye on brave Montcoffer's towers. 

Then Alvah's narrow gorge she threads, 

And slips along the Duke's domain, 
Where stately trees bend down their heads, 

And, swinging to and fro, beat time to her refrain. 

She leaves these coverts, tastes the tide, 

And, piercing through the shingly bar, 
She comes to where the breakers ride, 

And, mixing with the brine, is borne to realms afar. 



A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY 

"The myriad shriek of wheeling ocean fowl." Tennyson. 

OFTEN had we heard of Fowlsheugh that unique 
segment of the Kincardineshire coast, unique on the 
eastern sea-board for its vast, conglomerate precipices, its 
grand majestic caves and underground galleries, as well as 
for its multitudinous populace of sea-birds ; much had we 
heard, but not until the other day were we privileged to pay 
a long-deferred visit to this most interesting region. It has, 
of course, been many times described, but one may be 
pardoned for trying once again to put one's first impressions 
into words whilst the impression is new and fresh. No 
adequate inspection of the ground is possible except from the 
sea in a boat, and a small boat, so that perfectly calm weather 
is an essential condition of a completely successful expedi- 
tion. On the day we chose this condition seemed happily met, 
for the sea was smooth and still, and a gentle southerly wind 
just ruffled the sea-mirror without waking " the mighty being " 
to anything beyond a moderate and soothing heave. 

We were three passengers, under the skilful guidance of 
a fourth, whose long residence in Stonehaven has familiarised 
him with every inch of the way, and who could not be matched 
as a cicerone either for accurate knowledge or for enthusiasm 
in the oft-repeated quest. Passing from the quiet shelter of 
Stonehaven harbour, our trim little craft, propelled by two 
brawny oarsmen, crept round the Downie out on the heaving 
bosom of the North Sea. Four miles of jagged cliff extend 
southward, cut into fantastic shapes by the pounding of the 



A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY 13 

easterly gales, grim and solitary islets, bold and sphinx-like 
masses, beetling crags, and sheer, sharply-chiselled precipices. 
Dunnottar Castle stands midway, and at the extreme end is 
the culminating rock of Fowlsheugh, with its myriads of 
birds. The whole sea-fringe is an intricate series of gullies 
and narrow channels, through which our tiny skiff was deftly 
piloted, but in which a stranger would inevitably lose his way. 
It is in reality a kind of fairy world that the threading of 
these intricate passages discloses, and recalls the tales of adven- 
ture that are associated with coral islands in the southern 
tropics. 

The caves are many; some large, some small, some wide 
and spacious and extending deep under the super-incumbent 
land, others narrow and tortuous, and tapering away to 
crevices where no boat can penetrate. Originally due to a 
geological " fault " in the sandstone conglomerate, the 
hollow which makes the caves has been gradually enlarged, 
scooped out, and rounded off by the ceaseless action of the 
waves. We were able to visit all the series, the Devil's 
Kettle, the Devil's Footsteps, the Long Gallery, and others. 
The boat steers straight for a yawning mouth, and glides 
silently into the open portal. The effect of running into an 
underground tunnel, out of the bright sunshine and the wide 
expanse of sparkling sea, into the sombre gloom of one of 
Nature's own grim dungeons, is decidedly weird. The light 
from the entrance is deflected from the glistening side-walls 
on to the water, and shows up its beautiful colours, " green as 
emerald " and varying shades of exquisite blue. Through 
the translucent deeps you can dimly see the brown tangles 
clinging to the rocky bottom, and swaying gently in the moving 
water. Above is the finely-arched roof, shaped by no earthly 
architect, sometimes green and brown and slimy with adhering 
algse, sometimes smooth and polished, hard and glossy, the 
big rounded pebbles, in all tones of red, densely packed in the 



I 4 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

hard matrix of sandstone. These occasionally protrude and 
look as if they could easily be gouged out like plums from a 
cake, but they are solid and immovable. 

Ordinary sounds take a new tone under such surroundings. 
The echoes of the human voice reverberate up the dark, 
unprobed recesses of the caverns ; at intervals comes the far-off 
wash of the waves as they splash up some unseen, gravelly 
beach ; then you hear the dull, solemn, eerie " boom "of the 
swell, as it beats against the perpendicular barrier of solid 
rock outside. We glide deeper and deeper into the intricate 
mazes of these watery labyrinths. The half-lights glimmer 
and gleam, then grow dimmer ; the gloom deepens till we are 
in perfect darkness. A back number of the " Free Press " is 
crumpled up into an improvised torch, set light to, and flung 
blazing on the water surface. Its fierce glare is reflected 
from the glistening walls, and gives the water channel an inky 
hue. We are now far under the projecting land, and the 
thought occurs that perhaps two hundred feet above our heads 
the farm-servants are busy singling turnips in the cultivated 
fields, unaware of underground visitors. Having gone as far 
into the bowels of the earth as the boat can venture, we ship 
our oars and pause for a brief space to drink in the solemnity 
of this wonderful scene, to feel the unexpressed poetry of a 
new experience, and to ponder the marvellous architecture 
that formed these great masses of conglomerate in the process 
of suns. It is an awe-inspiring sight, and fills one with the 
same solemnising thoughts as come from traversing the dim 
aisles of some vast cathedral. Then we turn back. Through 
the archway of entrance we catch a circumscribed view of the 
far sea, with a sun-lit white sail in the middle distance, and 
a passing steamer on the horizon edge. Then out from the 
gloom, through the gateway again into the grateful sunshine 
and the swinging waves, past some outlying island to which 
venturous rock-fishers have clambered over wire-rope bridges 



A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY 15 

to hang perched like sparrows on housetops, plying their 
angling craft. One of these daring adventurers, as our boat 
approached his perilous station, was blessed with a vigorous 
bite, and striking his long bamboo rod too suddenly and 
jerkily, snapped it at the top joint, but in spite of this 
untoward accident he held manfully on to the plunging fish, 
and no doubt succeeded in landing it safely after we had 
passed. 

The diorama of cliffs is constantly changing. They are 
all manner of shapes, perpendicular walls, sheer and straight, 
wedge-shaped masses with clean-cut edges, rude bosses bulging 
out like vast excrescences, but always with the embedded 
pudding-stones firmly cemented in Nature's concrete. Some- 
times the big pebbles are split right through the centre like an 
almond, sometimes a hollow mould or empty socket is all that 
is left to mark their place of pressure. Here and there short 
areas of pure sandstone occur, quite devoid of intrusive 
pebbles. In the crevices grow scurvy-grass, pink sea-thrift, 
and the white catch-fly fluttering in the breeze. Now and again 
the baser " dock," a vagrant from the cultivated land above, 
gains a precarious footing in a convenient crack, and flourishes 
nobly. The caves are, for the most part, wet, with a deep 
watery floor that ends at low tide in a scanty beach made of 
the re-shaped pebbles that did duty ages before in making the 
beaches of the prime ; but one cavern on a higher level is 
entirely dry. Here the rock is an intrusive dyke of porphyry. 
You clamber over a confused heap of huge porphyritic boulders, 
hard as adamant, to find yourself in a spacious chamber, like 
some banqueting hall of a manor house of Norman times. It 
has a high-embowed roof, but the walls are damp and dripping, 
and the floor is irregular. In the dim light of its innermost 
recess is a stray dancing midge, frolicking gaily in obscurity, 
and not two yards away hangs a spider's web, arrayed in all 
its geometric exactitude, ready to make a prey of the winged 



16 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

mite. Even in these dark dungeons the struggle for life is 
strenuous and implacable. 

Gradually, as we cruise out and in amongst the waterways, 
we round the last headlands and come to the chief haunt of 
the sea-birds. At first they were entirely absent, or few, but 
as we approach the climax of Fowlsheugh they become more 
and more numerous. The cliffs swarm with feathered life. 
Guillemots and razorbills, puffins and kittiwakes are here by 
thousands ; an occasional cormorant emerges from the crowd ; 
a stray jackdaw, probably on the outlook for provender, flits 
about the rock-face ; a few rock-pipits and rock-pigeons may 
be seen, but the great majority are guillemots, puffins, and 
kittiwakes. Every cranny, every ledge, every convenient 
hollow is occupied by nests, in which the young birds, now 
well fledged and clamorous, find a procreant cradle. The 
air is darkened with flying wings going and returning, like bees 
on a summer day round a populous hive, apparently in aimless 
journeys, but, if we knew all, with distinct purpose and fore- 
sight. The guillemots, with white breast and dark neck and 
wings, stand erect like miniature penguins, then hurl themselves 
from their foothold and flutter heavily out to sea, or plunge 
into the swelling tide. Their wings give the impression of 
being, in proportion, short for their weight of body, and they 
fly with some sense of effort. Their out-stretched black- 
webbed feet give a curious outline to these birds as they appear 
from the boat below ; they resemble a flying squirrel more than 
a bird, and use their expanded feet for steering their course. 
The tail is the usual steering apparatus, but the guillemot has 
a meagre endowment of tail, and finds its webbed feet a very 
good substitute. The puffin is a much better flier ; he is 
quicker and easier on the wing, but this quaint, sage-looking, 
old-world, ludicrous sea-parrot also uses his legs in flight. 
Only, his feet and legs are bright red, not black, and, when the 
webbed feet are expanded in mid-air flight, they give a bright 



A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY. 17 

note of colour in contrast to the black and white of the 
guillemot. The black cormorant is very conspicuous when 
he shoots overhead. The walls of the cliff are white with 
droppings. The noise of so many clamorous tongues is deafen- 
ing ; it rises and falls as the breeze carries it towards us or 
away from us. A pistol shot from a passing boat fills the 
air with fluttering wings and crescendo of screaming. The 
" peep-peep "of the young birds on their narrow ledges mingles 
with the shriller cries of the parents. A chorus from 100,000 
raucous throats, not moving in unison but each exerted to its 
limit, makes a babel indescribable. The guillemots settle down, 
bowing gracefully to us or to each other as they stand erect on 
their perches ; a puffin takes a sudden leap, forges out to sea 
for a breather, and then returns to his ledge as if from mere 
spontaneity of energy and overflowing vital force. Dead birds 
float past the rocking boat an index of the inevitable wastage 
that nature so readily sanctions. A mother-bird soars in with 
a glistening sand-eel in her beak. Some detached companies 
are swimming daintily on the heaving sea, now up on the crest, 
now down in the trough of the wave. 

The great height of the cliff has the effect of diminishing 
the size of the birds. They seem strangely tiny as they stand 
on the abutting edges of the rock. No nests are ever placed 
on an accessible ledge. They are always well out of human 
reach. The result is that the nestlings are invisible from the 
boat level ; they squat on the lowest dip of the hollow, and 
only now and again do they raise their heads to look over the 
precipice edge and scan the world below. The toll that the 
sea-life pays to feed such a multitudinous army of old and 
young must figure out to tons of provender daily. Any 
approximation to the number of nestlings reared every season 
in this lofty and exposed rock-face is difficult to reach, but 
even exact figures would give a poor notion of the vast and 
ceaseless activities that operate here from April to the end 



i 8 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

of July. By the beginning of August the young birds are 
strong on the wing and a general exodus takes place. A hush 
of peace falls upon Fowlsheugh, and the wild waves sing 
unaccompanied by the clamour of sea-birds' tongues till the 
spring-time rouses the nesting instinct and again peoples the 
beetling crags with noisy life. 

Having reached the outermost headland after three full 
hours of hard rowing against the wind, our boatmen sprung their 
mast and rigged up a broad sail. The breeze had grown since 
we started, and white-crested waves were prominent on the 
reefs. We slid along to Stonehaven at a good pace, past 
Tremuda Bay and Thornyhive, past Dunnottar ruins, which 
look greatly different in appearance as seen from the sea, past 
salmon nets and crab-creels, and overhead scattered parties of 
sea-birds, racing from the sandy northern coast with morsels of 
food to feed the hungry nestlings we had left behind in their 
princely nursery at Fowlsheugh. 



THE DEEP SEA 

T SANK, methought, in ocean's deeps 
* Far, far down till I trod the ooze, 
Miles below where the sunlight sleeps, 
Cradled in heaving greens and blues. 

Calm and peaceful and passing cold, 
Dark and grim was the lonesome floor ; 

Only phosphoric gleamings told 

What hideous forms the fauna wore. 

Great bristling jaws, wide, wide agape, 
And rounded, huge and goggle eyes, 

And waving stalks of feather shape, 
And red crustacean mysteries ; 

Long, swaying tails and lanky limbs 
And tentacles whose probing feel 

Searches the slimy mud and skims 
The lowly things that there conceal ; 

For, ever fall, like snowflakes white, 
One after one, the lifeless forms 

That darted in the upper light, 

Till dash'd to death by ruthless storms. 
19 



20 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

Here comes not storm or current's flow ; 

A perfect peace rules year by year ; 
Winter and summer ne'er bestow 

A darker day or brighter cheer. 

This water-world is dismal, weird ; 

Eternal night for ever reigns ; 
No sound is heard, no flower is reared, 

No putrefaction e'er profanes. 

Yet death is here as everywhere, 

Fierce tragic death from tooth and spine ; 

The strong the less protected tear, 
For such is nature's discipline. 

I left, it seemed, these realms of gloom 
And slowly clomb to air and light ; 

Then waking, heard the breakers boom, 
And saw the moon was shining bright. 



FROM BUD TO LEAF 

" . . Such a time as goes before the leaf, 
When all the wood stands in a mist of green, 
And nothing perfect." 

Tennyson 

THE transition from bare branch to leafy bough is always 
a moment of lively interest, and this year in parti- 
cular the bursting- of the buds has been so sudden, so 
markedly beautiful and dramatic, that it deserves a special 
word of comment. The long-continued winter kept back all 
traces of green till May was well begun ; when the sun at last 
regained his power, the response was immediate, and the 
awakening has had something of a Canadian character. The 
tassels of the flowering currant were hung out at an 
early period, albeit they suffered for their temerity by being 
nipped where exposed to the keen April frosts ; the silky 
catkins of the hardy willow were not retarded beyond their 
usual date, but they, too, lost their lustre under the constant 
teasing of bitter north-easters. The hawthorns, here and 
there in sheltered situations, thrust out a few tentative leaves, 
which are now brown and shrivelled ; but all the other trees held 
their tender leafage safe under the cover of the protecting 
scales. Suddenly the temperature rose, the trigger was pulled, 
and within a week the trees in and around the city are in that 
condition which the late laureate so appositely describes as 
a mist of green, with nothing perfect. Nowhere is this 
charming state of matters more conspicuous than in Albyn 
Place, where the daily deepening of the texture of green and 
gold has superseded all the ordinary topics of conversation 



22 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

amongst those whose fate it is to traverse that sylvan highway 
every morning. A week ago, right and left showed nothing 
but bare, gaunt branches ; to-day the press of fresh leafage, 
in all the clearness of bright colour and untarnished glory, is 
a sight for old and young. 

Perhaps the sycamores have the greatest breadth of 
greenery to display ; their varied tints of gold and green are 
every day extending their range of covert. Not far behind 
them are the horse-chestnuts with their wide branches and the 
drooping fan-like bunch of leaves at the tip of every shoot. 
Most catching to the eye, however, are the copper beeches, of 
which there are some supremely graceful specimens opposite 
Albyn Terrace. These are at this moment a dream of 
exquisite colouring, a soft and delicate lace-work in pink, a 
vision of beauty that cannot be rivalled. Nothing in the way 
of pure leafage, apart from flower colouring, can compare with 
the first fortnight's kindling of the copper beech. As the 
leaves expand, the colour deepens to purple, and though still 
beautiful, they lose the delicate half-tones of their fledgling 
hours. At present they look as if a colony of delicately- 
tinted butterflies had lit on their arrowy sprays, butterflies of 
fairyland " on tiptoe for a flight." By contrast with the more 
prevalent green, the comparative rarity of this species no 
doubt enhances the brightness of their exquisite rich colour- 
ing. The ruby-budded limes, of which there are many over- 
hanging the pavements, have protruded their million emeralds, 
crumpled, callow, unfledged, without a stain, immaculate in 
their purity and tenderness, and every twenty-four hours the 
fabric grows thicker. The lilacs already are poising their 
miniature flower-heads, with just the faintest tinge of 
characteristic colour. The scarlet-flowering hawthorns have 
also thrust out their beaded flower-buds, infants of the spring 
with June's display in front of them. The feathers of the 
rowan, the spangles of the birch, the satin tassels of the 



FROM BUD TO LEAF 23 

laburnum, are hourly taking more definite shape and reaching 
their objective. The elm, the wide-branching elm, which a 
month ago was rosy with multitudinous blossoms, is already 
forming fruit, and the leaves, new from their silky sheaths, 
are multiplying their cells at break-neck speed. The ashes 
that guard the angle between Garden Place and Queen's Cross 
are still gaunt and bare ; they give no sign that the sap is 
stirring within their hard rinds. The tender ash delays to 
clothe herself when all the woods are green, but further down 
the street where there is shelter from the northern blasts, the 
ashes show dark, swollen knobs at the apex of every branch, 
evidence that the inconspicuous flowers are getting ready to 
emerge, and will in due time whisper in the wind. 

All trees of the same species do not show a uniformity of 
forwardness. There are curious differences. The younger 
trees are first ; the larger and more deeply-rooted trunks are 
several days behind. Is this because their roots are sunk deep 
in the cold boulder clay and glacial drift which is the sub-soil 
of Aberdeen, and thus take more time to feel the effects of 
the genial warmth? The black (Italian) poplars which line 
part of Beechgrove Terrace are still untouched by any vestige 
of green. They are as slow in their response as the ash itself. 
Still they, too, are feeling those blind motions of the spring 
that show the year is turned, and by and by their leaves will 
be quivering in every ruffling breeze, like the aspens which in 
some respects they resemble. But the Ontario or Canadian 
poplar, which belongs to the same order, is showing its rich 
gold-green. Unhappily, all these poplars in this region are 
moribund. Every year sees a few die out, and the survivors 
are losing ground. Whether this is due to disease, or to the 
pruning which their rapid growth sometimes makes necessary, 
we cannot say. We hazard the conjecture that the latter is the 
cause, and that the practice of lopping off an unsightly branch 
is fatal. Once a branch is lopped, the wet seems to find an 



24 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

entrance into the soft wood and decay begins. The bark 
cracks vertically along the trunk, the younger branches 
diminish their stock of leaves, and the tree begins to grow 
more and more unsightly, until in a few years it is an ugly, half- 
dead bole, calling for removal. Yet we are told that trees 
which have never been pruned at all are going the same way. 
Whatever the cause, this poplar's day is over, and no more 
will be planted in this quarter. This is a misfortune, because 
when it does thrive, the tree brings an element of brightness 
into regions where few green leaves are seen, and it has often 
cheered the gloom of slums, where no other tree will live. The 
white poplar, of which there are one or two specimens in 
Albyn Place, does not seem to suffer in this way, and these are 
responding to the call of spring like the rest of their co-mates. 
The service trees which are a speciality of Hamilton Place and 
Fountainhall Road, are at their best in May. Later on, when 
tarnished by the weather, they appear shabby and lack any 
note of distinction, but, on their first emerging, the soft, 
woolly, corrugated leaves are remarkably beautiful, and when 
seen in a prolonged vista from one end of a street to the other, 
have a fine effect. 

Flowers and trees are hardly compatible. The wall-flowers 
and hyacinths of Garden Place and Fountainhall Road scent 
the air, and the daffodils and the tulips feast the eye, but 
Albyn Place is poor in that respect, except it be the blaze of 
dandelions that glorify the grass of Queen's Cross Church, 
and which ought to point the moral of many of its Sunday 
sermons. There is no cure for this bold intruder except a 
potato crop, and although a belt of potato drills would be a 
sordid setting for such a handsome edifice, yet one year of this 
infirmity might be borne for the sake of an ultimate remedy. 
As it is, year after year this nursery of dandelions is an eye- 
sore to all enemies of this vilest and most tenacious of weeds. 



A SPRING FLOOD 

BUT yesterday the stream was moving slow, 
Gliding pellucid, meek, within her narrow bed, 
Kissing her pebbles grey and humming low 
A sleepy tune to which no words were said. 

The frost still bound her many mountain springs, 
And shrunk her tumbling burns to summer rills ; 

The chill north wind had flapped his blustering wings, 
And snow lay white upon the distant hills. 

With early morn a westering breeze upsprang, 
From far Atlantic borne, and freshly blew 

His shrilling trumpet loud, and at the clang 
Their spotless hoods the silent hills withdrew. 

Slowly they cast their garments down the glens, 
And every tinkling rill became a flood, 

Seething and raging past the shaggy bens, 
No longer crystal clear but red like blood. 

A hundred teeming runnels jostle gay, 

Plunging like steeds on the lone prairie bred ; 

Breathless they foam and dash their showers of spray 
With hisses at each jagged boulder's head. 

25 E* 



26 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

And here in this low valley near the sea 

Outstretched on grassy bank I watch the tide 

Shoot past in headlong race, and loathe the glee 
That shakes my stream's dark hour of reeling pride. 

Her charm is gone, her sweet and winning grace, 
That lured the angler with its sunny smile, 

Has vanished from her brow and in its place 
Are frowns and temper petulant and vile. 

Her whisper'd tune is now become a roar, 

Fierce, drunken, mad and truculent and hoarse ; 

Her dimpled cheek is swollen and muddied o'er, 
With bloated looks, ignoble, wanton, coarse. 

Anon, when this wild rage hath passed away, 
Her own true, beauteous self she will retrieve ; 

Again will smile, decked out in sweet array, 
And coyly woo the kiss of summer eve. 



AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 

PART I 

" Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite 
Beyond it, blooms the garden that I love." 

Tennyson 

IT is perhaps too late in the day to reiterate the pleasures 
of gardening as a healthy, engrossing, and soul-satisfying 
pastime. They are too well known and too universally- 
recognised to be redescribed here. The last word on the 
subject was finely said by Francis Bacon when he wrote in his 
essay "Of Gardens " " God Almighty first planted a garden. 
And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures." Yet one 
who spends much time amongst his flower-beds and vegetable 
plots may give some slight modicum of pleasure or of insight 
to others similarly employed, if he describe, however per- 
functorily, the various activities that he engages in, and the 
triumphs that gild or the failures that cloud his summer hours. 
If you wish to take all the joy and genuine delight that can 
be gained from such an employment, you must elect to be 
your own gardener. The millionaire who has many skilful and 
expert professionals to embellish his lawns may have pleasure 
in contemplating the works of art which other brains have 
planned and other hands have executed for his delectation 
it is the joy of possessing a costly picture ; but he can never 
taste the unalloyed pleasure that comes to the man whose 
handiwork it is. It follows that, if you are to do your own 
gardening, your area of ground must be strictly moderate, 
otherwise it will be beyond your powers to deal with unaided. 

27 



28 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

If it be larger than you can handle successfully, you are com- 
pelled to hire auxiliaries to supplement your efforts ; and this 
takes away much of the charm. Half an acre, or a third, or 
even a fourth of an acre, in some cases, will be as much as 
you can manage single-handed. 

The writer's own modest demesne is probably less than the 
third part of an acre, a long rectangular parallelogram sixty 
feet broad and probably some 300 feet long, extending from 
one street, which the dwelling-house fronts, facing north, right 
to another parallel street on the south, to which access is 
gained by a postern door. The greater part of the garden, 
therefore, faces south, and is protected from the biting north 
winds by the house, which is relatively high and broad. The 
small part of garden facing the north, and lying between the 
house and the street, is of little account. It has a few 
thriving evergreen shrubs as an undergrowth, above which 
wave the branches of a leafy lime tree, a copper beech, and a 
few others. Beyond keeping it fairly tidy I pay little atten- 
tion to this patch ; my activity concentrates itself on the long 
reach behind. 

This is divided into two portions, the upper half containing 
a square of grass and a vegetable plot of similar size, while 
round these run borders well-stocked with herbaceous and 
bedding plants. The lower portion, which slopes gently to the 
south, is almost entirely devoted to vegetable products, with 
the exception of one considerable area given over to a 
properly-levelled grass court suitable for tennis, Badminton, 
or clock golf. A fringe of sycamores at the extreme end 
screens us from the observation of the houses across the 
street. The walls are covered with gooseberry and currant 
bushes, with apple trees and morello cherries. 

The first consideration is the grass two fairly large areas 
to keep in good order. Nothing sets off a garden more effec- 
tively than well-kept, smooth turf, free from coarse weeds. 



AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 29 

This means hard work, for dandelions and daisies, not bred by 
yourself, but wafted by every gale from your less careful 
neighbours, find a foothold on your turf, and must be ruth- 
lessly removed. Once let these intruders get the upper hand 
and you become paralysed and helpless. But dandelions, 
though an eyesore to every gardener worthy of the name, are 
easily dealt with, provided you act promptly, and adopt a 
policy of constant watchfulness. If you cut off the green top 
of each as it appears, and never give it time to vegetate and 
absorb a store of carbon as a reserve of energy, you will find 
that the plants gradually lose staying power, dwindle, and 
finally disappear. Every fresh attempt at growth is feebler 
than the last, and ultimately they are without force to send up 
green leaves at all. If you wait till the green leafage has 
stored up strength in the root, your task is greatly increased. 
The moral is to decapitate each as soon as it shows face. 
" Off with its head," and that promptly, is your cure. Daisies 
are much more easily negotiated, and even creeping buttercups, 
if they are assailed as soon as they appear. Above all, keep 
the mower constantly busy ; that is the secret of the short, 
smooth, crisp turf, so pleasant to the tread and so agreeable 
to the eye. How much more charming a neat lawn is when 
kept entirely by the labours of your own unaided hands, and 
how much more pride you take in eyeing the trimly clipped 
edges when you have used the big garden shears to good 
purpose yourself. 

The same applies to the vegetables you grow. Utilitarians 
without sentiment ask, What is the use of growing cabbages 
or peas or beetroot, or carrots and turnips, when you can buy 
them so cheaply? Such cold, stony people do not under- 
stand. They ,have never felt the glow of satisfaction with 
which you hand to your cook (reluctantly, it may be, for now 
their day is done and all your anxious effort has reached its 
culminating point) a brace of juicy cabbages, free from the 



3 o ALEXANDER MACKIE 

pollution of caterpillars, or a basket of succulent lettuces, or 
your first dish of green peas, with plump, long, well-filled pods. 
You aver with certitude that they taste better than those 
bought in the shops, and, even though your prosaic friends jeer 
at this conviction, affirming that it is only your narrow personal 
bias, there is something sound in your contention, for your 
products go straight to the kitchen pot, and are not limp and 
flabby and lifeless from exposure for hours in the sunny 
window of a greengrocer's store. You like to gather the 
peas with your own hand ; another would uproot the growing 
stems, and work irremediable ravage. You make a point of 
digging your early potatoes in person ; no one else will see 
that not a single tuber is missed. You resent the cook's 
helping herself to vegetables ; she invariably chooses the wrong 
ones. The ignorance displayed by these culinary deities is 
appalling. They mistake cress for parsley, cut down your 
young radishes in the belief that they are mustard, know no 
difference between a spring cabbage and a winter one, nor 
between a Swedish turnip and an early Milan. They will step 
regardless on the newly-sown beds, and scatter waste leaves 
on your neatly-raked paths, and, when they gather flowers, 
think nothing of plucking up whole plants by the root. These 
misdemeanours justify you in excluding their hands from 
participation in your proceedings. 

No doubt you have your worries, for gardening in city 
suburbs is at best often a heartless and ungrateful labour. 
Your spring onions dwindle away in the first week of July 
till not a single plant is left surviving. They have been 
" eaten of worms," the larvae of the common fly showing a great 
relish for such toothsome dainties. Leeks as a rule are 
exempt from these attacks, as also are shallots ; but even 
these in certain seasons are victimised. Carrots are the most 
uncertain of crops. Some years, by a liberal application of 
diluted sheep-dip, which is strongly carbolic, you may save 



AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 31 

them. Another season, in spite of hard tramping of the soil 
when wet, they give way. Right on to the middle of July they 
look well and thriving, when suddenly one morning you find 
some plants drooping and yellow the carrot fly has obtained 
access, and the larvae have severed the tap-root and cut off the 
chief source of food-supply. Your beet has been thinned out 
on a uniform and well-considered plan, when all at once the 
symmetry of the ranks is broken by the appearance of dead 
plants all along the line. When you examine them you find 
that each has been sawn through at the neck. Scrape the 
earth from round the root and you will discover the 
depredators, the larvae of the daddy-long-legs, which, under 
cover of darkness, come from their hiding-place in the earth 
to work you woe and devour the stems which you had destined 
to give relish to your salt beef in the winter. Sometimes a 
plague of slugs, especially after a frostless winter, threatens 
to decimate your first sowing of turnips and your spring 
cabbages. A pair of ducks which I have introduced, and 
which are allowed the free run of the garden during the 
evening hours, when the slugs begin their browsing, soon 
convert these succulent morsels into ducks' eggs, fresh every 
morning for breakfast 



PART II 

ONE great trouble to the gardener, and the source of half 
his labour, is the getting rid of weeds. The enthusiasm 
of the keenest of amateurs is apt to succumb to this 
obstacle. He -allows the weeds to run rampant for a while, 
and finds, when he begins to tackle the problem, that it is 
beyond coping with. Especially formidable is this trial when 
the garden is either absolutely new or very old and neglected. 



3 2 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

A few years' strenuous perseverance is necessary to overcome 
the evil. The point is never to allow your weeds, whether 
they be merely grass or chickweed or shepherd's purse, to run 
to seed. One year of slackness or neglect and the soil will 
be so stocked with seeds that they will come up every time 
the earth is turned over, for many years afterwards. My 
garden has been carefully tended for twenty years, and the 
weeds are few. Such as exist come with the farmyard manure, 
or are blown over the walls from waste places or the gardens 
of less scrupulous husbandmen than myself. Thistles, 
groundsel, and dandelions all arrive in this way ; but they are 
easily destroyed in the young stage. Couch grass and bishop's 
weed, which have underground creeping stems, are insidious 
enemies, and are frequently found in very old gardens where 
they have been allowed to run riot for years. You often see 
them in old manse gardens. Here drastic methods must be 
employed, even at the risk of losing a season's crop ; other- 
wise you will have no after satisfaction. My garden walks 
have not been hoed for years, and now they are so hard that 
no seed can find a lodgment in them. Such as do appear are 
scooped out with an old knife. It is when you have reduced 
the labour which arises from this cause to a minimum that 
you really enjoy the work of your hands. Your time and 
trouble can then be monopolised by the plants you want to 
grow, and not wasted on these unwelcome intruders. In 
one way weeds are not bad, for they necessitate a constant 
stirring of the soil to keep them down, and this moving of 
the surface conduces to good growth of vegetables by letting 
air into the roots ; but this can be done with much more 
expedition and ease if there are no weeds to kill. 

There is, of course, the further question of insect pests 
caterpillars devouring your cabbages and cauliflowers, and 
making them unsightly; red spider destroying the leafage 
and therefore the life of your apple trees ; the winter moth 



AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 33 

playing havoc amongst the leaves of your roses and amongst 
the apple leaves that the red spider has left ; the caterpillars of 
magpie moths denuding your gooseberry bushes ; earwigs 
drilling holes in your dahlias and devouring your French beans. 
All these things are very vexatious, and have to be combated 
in their season. 

Once a week you must walk up your cabbage rows, turning 
over the larger and the lower leaves ; you will find nests of 
eggs of the cabbage- white butterfly, dainty little yellow- 
beaded protuberances, set up on end like tiny skittles in regular 
array. They will hatch out in a day or two, and become 
greedy, voracious little caterpillars, so that you are just in time 
to closure their potentialities. A pinch between finger and 
thumb reduces the whole brood to helplessness. If you 
should miss, as you certainly will miss, however keen your 
eyesight, a clutch of these, your omission will be apparent on 
your next inspection, in devastation going merrily on within 
a certain area. With good eyes and some patience you may 
partially retrieve your mistake, but the great thing is to 
anticipate the hatch-out. 

Red spider is most destructive in dry seasons to trees on 
walls ; the remedy is to syringe the affected trees with cold 
water once a day. This takes valuable time which you would 
prefer to devote to more important duties, but if you do not 
act opportunely the little parasites will suck the life from 
every leaf, and make your trees in early June a sorry sight, and 
in no condition to mature the apples which may have set. By 
and by fresh leafage will come, and moister weather will keep 
the tiny mites at bay, but the half of your fruit will drop to the 
ground from lack of leaf nourishment. 

The winter -moth is a dreadful enemy to rose bushes and to 
apple trees. Hand-picking is the only cure, and that is a 
tedious, toilsome, and uninteresting business. Best of all, 
encourage the nesting of tits and chaffinches in your garden, 



34 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

and these will prove most potent and efficient helpers. The 
worst of it is that, with so many cats about for almost every 
household in your vicinity is sure to have a cat these useful 
birds are scared away. For six years running a pair of tits 
have nested in the hollow of a dead tree in my garden, and 
during June are most assiduous in supplying caterpillars to 
their young brood. Unfortunately for me, they are just as 
kind to my neighbours as they are to me, and show a 
catholicity of spirit that I sometimes wish were more sectarian. 

One drawback which militates against the complete success 
of your endeavours is the necessity of shutting up your house, 
and making a prolonged summer sojourn in the country. This 
is always felt to be a grievance by the amateur gardener. He 
leaves the work of his hands just at the moment when he is 
beginning to take satisfaction in it, when the worst of his 
labour is over, and when fruition is in sight. By the time of 
returning there will be many things to rectify which a very 
little attention at the proper moment would have prevented. 
Though weeds may be riotous, they will not, if you took care 
to leave none visible when you departed, have had time to 
shed their seeds. It is a comical sight to behold a house- 
holder, on the eve of his departure for the country, going 
round his garden, basket in hand, for the last time, to annex 
any stray weed, however tiny, that may have escaped his 
previous notice. Thus only can he minimise the detriment that 
is sure to arise from his enforced absence. A few days of 
fierce activity on his return will bring order once more out of 
chaos, and thereafter things are normal for the rest of the 
season. 

Much more might be said. The pleasure of perambulating 
your plots when welcome rain has come after a period of pro- 
longed drought, when the plants respond so instantaneously to 
the refreshing showers ; of watching the scarlet runners as 
they clip their supports and twine round the long bamboo canes, 



AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 35 

invariably in one direction, contrary to the course of the sun, 
and making, as it were, a competitive race for the top, when 
you are ready to back some favourite for the premier place ; 
timing the growth of peas from their first emergence above 
ground to the flowering stage, and from the first appearance 
of blossom to the moment of gathering the first dish of the 
season these are simple but genuine pleasures. To some 
they seem trivial, worthless, and small ; but to those who have 
tasted such delights they are sedative, medicinal, and altogether 
wholesome and innocent. 



DAVID RENTON 

[Schoolmaster, Free Church Institution, Macduff. Died 1410 May, 1907.] 

\\7 7 HERE the grey church o'erlooks the pebbled shore, 

The sheltered haven and the dark blue sea, 
Close by the walls that hear his voice no more, 

We lay to rest that bright activity. 
A valiant heart was his, and staunch and true ; 

He march'd breast-forward, strenuous for the right, 
And stamp'd his impress deep, and ever drew 

From each whate'er was worthiest of light. 
Unwearied, zealous, forceful, firm, he cast 

The seeds of knowledge wide, and saw them rise 
To many a branching tree that long will last ; 

Thus, thus he spent himself, and now he lies 
Lulled by the voices of his boys at play, 
Soothed by the murmur of the restless bay. 



WILLIAM CARNIE 

[Editor of "The Northern Psalter." Died 2nd January, 1908, aged 83.] 

T T is not meet that he who paid the debt 

Which Sorrow's tears to stricken friendship pay, 
Himself should pass without some plaintive lay, 
Some note of admiration and regret. 
We loved the sparkling wit, in wisdom set, 
The twinkling eye with all its merry play, 
The kindly, tender soul that knew the way 
To crown the humble with a coronet. 
He took the young aspirant by the hand, 
He whispered to the struggler words of hope ; 
Transformed, refined, and raised our vocal art, 
Sowing his precepts broadcast o'er the land ; 
He gave King David's Psalms a freer scope 
And tuned these holy songs to touch the heart. 



37 



JAMES MYERS DANSON 

[Dean of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. Died 2gth December, 1909, 

aged 63.] 

HT'HE Grand Climacteric, like bird of prey, 

Swoops down with silent wing, now there, now here, 
Piercing our best, and those we hold most dear; 
And thus we lose him, see him borne away, 
From Council-board and festive gathering gay. 
He fell on peaceful sleep at ebb of year, 
When singing birds are mute, days short and drear, 
And skies all sombre in their veil of grey. 
He passes, but his virtue echoes loud : 
The polished, silver speech that held the crowd, 
The cultured mind, playing with lucid glow 
On whatsoe'er is thought or done below ; 
The cordial hand-grip and the courtly grace 
Who can forget that saw him face to face? 



GEORGE WEBSTER THOMSON 

[Minister of the West United Free Church, Aberdeen. Died 5th May, 1907, 

aged 71.] 

A CROSS the woods veiled in their mist of green, 

Across the springing fields and gardens gay 
With hyacinths and tulips, flowers of May, 
The trumpet-call shrilled through the night serene, 
And found him ready, as he e'er had been, 
With lamp aflame, and as he prayed that they 
Who were his flock should be, to thread the way, 
The dark and sunless road towards the unseen. 
His was a mind that gathered for delight 
Whate'er was steeped in beauty, grace, and art ; 
He loved his native hills and felt their might ; 
He owned the painter's eye, the poet's heart, 
As tender as a woman's when she brings 
Her wiles to soothe an infant's sufferings. 



39 



TO THE DANDELION 

" "\ 7ILE weed ! " the gardener calls thee, lusty flower ! 

And tears thy sturdy root in bitter hate ; 
But thou hast solved life's problem, and thy dower 
Of selfish wisdom he will ne'er checkmate. 

Thou dost not wait for April's warmer skies, 

Nor linger till the leaf is on the elm, 
We see thee ope thy saffron-coloured eyes 

And early seize waste places for thy realm. 

Thy yellow discs keen-sighted bees allure, 
And merry children tales of woe recall, 

Linking thy stems as fetters insecure 
To hold their mimic prisoners in thrall. 

And when full summer comes and shoots her darts, 

So nicely aimed, into thy fairy shield, 
Thy downy spheres to anxious lovers' hearts 

A mystic sense and fateful visions yield. 

40 



TO THE DANDELION 41 

Thy lush rosette of leafage makes a ring, 

Barring the entrance of all rivals weak ; 
The modest daisy owns thee as her king, 

Grasses and humbler herbs to thee are meek. 

Thy milky root like fabled hydra grows, 
And severed oft, restores its bushy head; 

Thy feathered fruit the north or south wind blows, 
Till sunk in earth it rises from the dead. 

Type of the hard and forceful, callous man, 
Engrossed in sordid pelf, who crushes down 

The meeker, purer souls with noisy ban, 
And eagerly usurps their promised crown! 



THE COMMON MOLE 

AN OBJECT LESSON 

" Old mole ! canst work i' the earth so fast ? 
A worthy pioneer!" 

"Hamlet" 

A LTHOUGH the mole has become a proverbial symbol 
A~\ for blindness, he is by no means the dense, stupid 
quadruped that some in their ignorance of his ways 
have judged him. He more than makes up for his defects 
of vision by increased acuteness in other senses. The 
abnormal strength, in proportion to his size, of the forepart of 
his body, his powerful digging paws, and the whole structure 
of his compact little organism, so admirably adapted to his 
environment, make him, notwithstanding his somewhat unlovely 
exterior, an interesting study. If it should be your lot to 
find one of these intruders riddling your garden with sub- 
terranean galleries, you will exercise your talents to good 
purpose in trying to catch him, and it will be no reflection on 
your skill if, after all, he eludes your most cunning devices. 
Sport is not rife in a city garden ; an occasional rat may find 
his way into your modest demesne, and being vermin as all 
animals in the wrong place are and a purely destructive 
agency, he invites his doom ; but he is an easy prey as com- 
pared with the common mole, until you have acquired the 
necessary experience. Fortunately, it is a rare occurrence for 
Talpa europaa to invade such inaccessible territory, forti- 
fied as it is by deeply- founded stonework on every side. 

What tempted the specimen the last chapter of whose 
history is here narrated to transfer his activity from the open 

42 



THE COMMON MOLE 43 

fields to a vegetable garden in the suburbs, or how he managed 
to effect an entrance, it were impossible to guess; but the 
fact remains that after a seven weeks' absence in the country, 
when the garden was first inspected, there were palpable 
evidences of an energetic intruder, who had been raising mole- 
heaps in all directions amongst the early potatoes, between 
the cabbages, and under the turnip drills. Minuter investiga- 
tion disclosed a systematic network of miniature tunnels 
running down one boundary' wall, crossing the ground at the 
foot, and returning by irregular lines to the original focus, 
ruthlessly undermining in their course your choicest cauli- 
flowers, striking athwart your beetroot lines, and endangering 
the young roots of the most cherished and succulent products 
of your industry. Being a tyro at mole-catching, you at first 
think a few minutes of well-directed spade-work will unearth 
your unwelcome and destructive visitant, but repeated 
endeavours in this direction convince you that no remedy lies 
that way. You next invest in a spring mole-trap, which at a 
moderate cost promises to rid you of your busy tormentor. 
You make an incision in his subterranean gallery at a point 
where his operations seem recent, and inserting your trap 
right in his line of march, you count on having him by the heels 
without fail next morning. When daylight comes, although 
he has been active during the darkness, as evidenced by 
freshly-upheaved mould, he has not approached the vicinity 
of your trap, and you change your venue only to find next day 
that he has been very much alive in the region you unwisely 
vacated. Indeed, he is always much in evidence where the 
trap is not. So the game of hide-and-seek goes on, and you 
begin to get exasperated at human intelligence being check- 
mated by a mere mole, when a happy inspiration suggests 
Why not multiply your traps and plant your engines at various 
places? You increase your armament accordingly, until your 
garden bristles with well-distributed weapons of offence, and 



44 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

every evening before dusk you lay your trains as subtly as 
possible without result. Once indeed a spring is jumped, 
and the depredator must have been within an ace of capture, 
but the loose nature of the garden soil no doubt clogged the 
spring at the crucial moment, and he succeeded in wriggling 
out. After a fortnight's pursuit he is still at large, and every 
morning leaves some mocking trace of his nocturnal energies. 
Sometimes you trace him right up to the cannon's mouth, but 
he either turns aside and by a semi-circular detour rejoins the 
original burrow at a point beyond the zone of danger, or, if 
you have rendered this course difficult by a breastwork of 
stones, he coolly dives lower, hollowing a new tunnel right 
under his former path and emerging in the old rut scathless. 
It dawns upon you that mole-catching is not the easy pastime 
you imagined, and it flashes on your mind that the reason why 
the mole-catcher of the country districts confines his attention 
to this art must be that it demands special skill and knowledge 
besides concentrated effort and undivided singleness of aim- 
that it is in truth a profession in which success is forbidden to 
all but the specialist and expert. 

This thought damps your ardour as an amateur, and in a 
pessimistic mood you are despairing of success, when chance 
throws in your way a tried hand of many wiles who has slain 
his hundreds. His counsels are a revelation. Avoid handling 
the trap, for the mole's sense of smell is so acute that he will 
not venture within an inch of your gin if its vital centre has 
been contaminated by the contact of human fingers. Second, 
cover your trap thoroughly up so as absolutely to exclude both 
light and air, for he is morbidly sensitive to both. These 
counsels sound promising ; they seem to explain your repeated 
failures, and you hasten to apply them with circumspection, 
setting your trap, not as before with the unaided hand, but 
with a pair of iron pincers, and by the help of a tough piece 
of compact turf you secure a well-constructed roof, which 



THE COMMON MOLE 45 

prevents the settling down of loose mould on the jaws of the 
trap and ensures the free and instantaneous play of the spring 
at the moment of release. The application of these cardinal 
precepts is a triumphant vindication of their wisdom, and one 
fine morning the potent and resistless steel grips the resource- 
ful immigrant in the loins and puts a sudden end to his multi- 
farious burrowings. There he lies with his mobile snout, his 
almost invisible eyes, his sleek, silky skin, unsoiled by a speck 
of earth, his broad, muscular paws turned outwards as in life 
a model of natural adaptation, and doubtless serving a useful 
purpose in the economy of nature by creating in his search 
for worms an artificial tilth where such is necessary. But your 
Brussels sprouts, undermined and torn from their feeding 
roots, are hanging limp and flagging in the sun, and your 
momentary fit of sympathy for your victim is replaced by a 
feeling of satisfaction that at last your languishing vegetables 
will mature in peace ; and it is without compunction that you 
consign his dumpy little carcase to mother earth. 



THE COMMON SPARROW 

THERE is a bird of homely kind, 
Whose range of note is narrow, 
Whose ways are rude and unrefined 
He's called the common sparrow. 

He cannot sing, he never soars, 

He flaunts no flashing colour, 
He merely chirps ; and yet our doors, 

Without his chirp, were duller. 

When grain I scatter in my yard, 

To fatten up my poultry, 
Although unseen, the thief's on guard, 

And pops down from an old tree. 

He maims my garden every spring, 
He pecks my peas and crocus ; 

Papers or feathers on a string 
He knows for hocus-pocus. 

The blackbird or the thrush may steal 

A ripe or ripening cherry : 
Such petty thefts I do not feel ; 

Their songs are worth a berry. 
4 6 



THE COMMON SPARROW 47 

But sparrow is a parasite 

Who thrives on other's labours, 
A masterful, pugnacious mite 

Who quarrels with his neighbours. 

Low tastes inform this dumpy wight, 

He is a true plebeian ; 
He never drinks the lark's delight, 

Or wings the empyrean. 

Quite unconcerned he makes his home 

In slum or gloomy alley, 
By well-stocked farm or church's dome, 

By manor or by chdlet. 

Where man resorts, he plants his tent, 

With man he loves to wander ; 
He conquers every continent, 

And rivals Alexander. 



THE WELCOME 



[To His Majesty King Edward VII. on the occasion of the inauguration 
of the New Buildings, Marischal College, Aberdeen, 27th September, 
1906.] 



is the North and cold the Northern Sea 
With its keen winds, and cold the granite grey." 
Thus have they said; What say they? Let them say! 
Warm are the hearts that beat by Silver Dee 
And glowing welcome do they pulse to thee, 
To thee our gracious Sire, this festal day, 
And to thy beauteous Queen ; and humbly pay 
Their meed of grateful homage loyally. 
Nor these alone ; for with us, hand in hand, 
Are gather'd now from many a distant land 
The wisest and the best of those who reign 
In Letters, come to bless our ancient fane, 
Our renovated pile, which knows it true 
That frigid hearts in frigid climes are few. 



4 8 



JOHN MARSHALL LANG 

[Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University ot Aberdeen. 
Died and May, igog, aged 74.] 



May, sweet May, had filled her lap with flowers 
And loiter'd trembling on the bud-starred way 
That leads to roses and the summer day, 
The moonlit crown of King's and yon twin towers, 
Rising above the old Cathedral bowers, 
Heard the soft-whisper'd call to one who lay 
Ready to break his staff and yield the sway 
Of Academic life to other powers. 
Great master of the happy phrase, he knew 
To shape the common thought in winged speech 
That pierced the air as with a trumpet sound ; 
A force resplendent, strong, yet of the few 
Who win by tactful arts and ever reach 
The goal they purpose without fret or wound. 



49 



ALEXANDER BAIN 

[Died i8th September, 1903, aged 85.] 

WERE vain to fret when Autumn flutters down 

Her sere and wrinkled leaves, outworn and grey 
'Tis vain to grieve when sages pass away, 
Their duty nobly done, with bright renown 
Circling their mem'ry like a golden crown. 
So thee beneath the reverent sod we lay, 
Keen-eyed philosopher! whose name held sway 
Where Learning wears her Academic gown. 
The subtle brain that pierced the mists of thought 
Gives now no quick response ; the kindly heart 
Touch'd to sweet, helpful issues, beats no more : 
A lasting monument thy labour wrought, 
Of honest work, of search for truth, of art 
To cleave each stubborn problem to the core. 



PROFESSOR MASSON 

" Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail 
Or knock the breast ; no weakness, no contempt, 
Dispraise, or blame ; nothing but well and fair, 
And what may quiet us in a death so noble." 

" Samson Agonistes " 

HE death of David Mather Masson at 85 removes from 
JL the four thousand names in the University Council, a 
name of great literary distinction, perhaps the name of 
greatest eminence in the present list He has not, like many 
others whose loss we deplore, been cut off in his prime ; he 
had completed his course, and a life of arduous labour has 
closed with honour, reverence, love, and troops of friends. 
Great precocity is too often the presage of a shortened life, 
but Masson's career is an exception. To be first bursar at 
12, to graduate with honourable distinction at 16, to be editor 
of a newspaper at 19, and that in a time of acute and 
acrimonious controversy, are no ordinary exploits. From the 
uncertain lottery of Nature, he had the good luck to draw the 
double gift of a vigorous frame of body and an alert and 
enquiring mind. These great gifts he husbanded with skill 
and brought them to a happy fruition. From a humble home 
in the Gilcomston Steps near the Royal Infirmary, he rose to 
be Professor of English Literature in the metropolitan 
university of Scotland, and for thirty years exercised a most 
beneficent, abiding, and inspiring influence on the under- 
graduates of Edinburgh. He was, besides, a pioneer in the 
work of providing Higher Education for women, and, long 
before the university doors were thrown open to them, he 

51 



52 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

voluntarily gave them the benefit of his prelections. His 
researches on Milton and Milton's Century, his masterly 
exposition of the cosmogony of Paradise Lost, and his 
thorough handling of every difficulty connected with that 
difficult poem have earned the lasting gratitude of scholarship. 

We have heard several contemporaries speak of Masson's 
undergraduate days. Dr. Bain, who followed him to Marischal 
College, but was four years his senior, often referred to the 
declaration of bursars in Masson's year. In those days a 
Latin version was the sole test ; and the successful names were 
announced the morning after the competition, the examiners 
sitting up all night to complete their task. The candidates 
hung about the Town House door the livelong night, braving 
the cold and wet of late October, and too impatient of the 
result to think of going to bed. At six o'clock, Dr. Murray, 
minister of the North Church, came to the door and in the 
grey dawn gratified the expectant crowd of sleepy school- 
boys by announcing " David Masson (which he pronounced 
Mason), First Bursar." Another contemporary recalled the 
fact that Masson was so diminutive in stature that his College 
gown came to his very heels, and that the boy himself was the 
" bonniest " boy he had ever seen. His fresh and ruddy 
complexion and finely-marked features drew all eyes towards 
him wherever he went. 

Bain and Masson in early life were inseparable friends, 
took long walks together, unbosomed their thoughts with 
perfect confidence to each other, and when ultimately 
separated kept up the intercourse by correspondence. Their 
walk in life gradually drew apart, Bain giving himself up more 
and more to philosophical studies, and Masson becoming more 
and more engrossed in literature, but they were firm friends to 
the last. These two were grand types of the best products 
of the Northern University without any supplement from 
Oxford or Cambridge. They were in some respects moulded 



PROFESSOR MASSON 53 

after a common pattern, but in Masson the humanising effect 
of literary studies was increasingly apparent in a beneficent 
and large-minded tolerance and in great lovableness of dis- 
position, whereas in Bain this influence, never very strong, 
ceased to operate. Bain, though always a kindly man, became, 
as he grew older, less and less emotional and imaginative, but 
with Masson the reverse was true. He was the most sociable 
of men. A great smoker (at one time he smoked an ounce 
of tobacco daily), he loved to sit and have his talk out with a 
congenial friend, pouring out reminiscences of De Quincey, 
of Thomas Carlyle, of the great Dr. Chalmers and the Non- 
Intrusion Controversy. Professor Davidson recalls the 
circumstance that once at the Manse at Bourtie, Masson and 
Minto spent a whole summer day in the Manse garden, each 
with his canister of tobacco under his arm, and each blowing 
clouds of smoke from his pipe, and the talk flowed freely all 
the time. 

Aberdeen was much in his thoughts. He never lost his 
love for his native city. Once in the presence of Dr. Walter 
C. Smith we heard him ask the poet whether he remembered 
catching " flukes " at the mouth of the Don, and the question 
opened up a flood of reminiscences of Aberdeen in the 'Thirties. 
The University made him an LL.D. in 1864; his face was 
reproduced in the Mitchell Window ; and he was honoured by 
being asked to unveil the Burns statue in 1892. These were 
the only acknowledgments ever made by his native city of her 
appreciation of his rise. At the banquet subsequent to the 
unveiling ceremony, he referred to the visits he" used to pay in 
the company of Professor Cruickshank to the observatory of 
Marischal College tower and exclaimed, amidst the plaudits of 
his hearers, " v Oh, there never were such stars in the world as 
those I saw from the top of Marischal College." He dearly 
loved to discuss the derivation and meaning of local words. 
We recall how, at his own dinner-table, he elucidated the 

G 



54 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

word " antrin," throwing out the sentence, " I hae seen her at 
an antrin time," for the benefit of those who had never heard 
the word. His laugh was of the hearty, genuine sort that 
Carlyle made a test of heroism. With what a guffaw he 
greeted the word " bass " (a door mat) ; he had not heard it, 
he said, for forty years. He was an out-and-out Scot, and 
had no patience with those who attempted to belittle or 
traduce Scottish sentiment. " There are very few Scotchmen, 
who, whatever they may pretend, are devoid of pride in being 
Scotchmen. Penetrate to the heart of any Scotchman, even 
the most Anglified, and there will certainly be seen a remnant 
in it of loving regard for this little land that lies north of the 
Tweed." 

His books are for the most part of lasting value. His 
monumental work on Milton, in six ponderous volumes, might 
be called the last word on that subject, if a last word could be 
said on any subject. Professor Raleigh may come in with his 
delightful criticisms, but no further research is possible. 
Every topic is probed to the bottom with the most complete 
thoroughness. Whatever Masson undertook he did thoroughly. 
He elaborated his ideas with a slow and deliberate pertinacity 
that sometimes irritates those who want a short cut, and who 
wish to reach a conclusion more rapidly. Perfect lucidity was 
his ideal, and he could not let the subject go till he attained 
absolute clearness. His notes on Milton's poetry are models. 
They explain whatever needs explanation, and they indicate 
striking features in Milton's art, but they are not made pegs 
on which to hang a display of erudition. His own writing was 
never slipshod or hurried. In one of his books he fulminates 
in no measured terms against the misrelated or floating parti- 
ciple, an insidious error which he denounced as the commonest 
but most objectionable error of our own time. Some critics 
complained that the influence of Carlyle was too apparent in 
the style of certain of his books. Occasionally one will come 



PROFESSOR MASSON 55 

across expressions and turns of sentence that suggest Carlyle's 
ways, but they are not so common as such criticisms would 
suggest. He had not the lightness of touch that characterises 
present-day criticism. Solidity rather than grace was his 
prominent quality, but he has left his mark on the history of 
English Literature, and his professorial teaching has had far- 
reaching influences which will not easily be effaced. 



THE PRAYER OF GREYFRIARS 

[The extension of Marischal College, Aberdeen, necessitated the demolition 
of the pre- Reformation Church of Greyfriars, which was replaced by a 
new structure in conformity with the University Buildings.] 

T"*\ISTURB me not, ye Vandals! I am grey 

^~^ With eld, deformed, unsightly, too, they say ; 

But centuries have pass'd since first I rose, 

A Gothic structure fair, and when the foes 

Of Rome reformed the Church and swept the land 

Of Papal power, I 'scaped their ruthless hand. 

Leave me in peace! Much have I heard and seen! 
I heard the wail o'er Flodden ; Mary, Queen 
Of Scots and Beauty, lived when I was young- ; 
I, passive, saw Spain's proud Armada flung 
By raging billows of the wild North Sea 
To fate our sister's glorious victory. 

Destroy me not! The Royal Martyr's fate 
To me seems but a thing of recent date, 
Though five-and-twenty decades have roll'd past 
Since " right divine of kings " to earth was cast. 
I can recall the Revolution great 
Which shook my hoary walls in 'Eighty-eight. 

56 



THE PRAYER OF GREYFRIARS 57 

Lay not unholy hands upon my dust! 

Nor yield to Philistines' destroying lust. 

I felt the " Fifteen " and the " Forty-five," 

Bootless to keep the Stuart cause alive. 

I heard the bear, Sam Johnson, growl along 

The Broadgate, snubbing faithful Bozzy's tongue. 

Oh ! spare this fane ; for once a pale, lame boy 

Who lived hard by, played " hide-and-seek " with joy 

Among my dusky buttresses and cast 

An eye poetic on my windows vast. 

He woke one morn and found satiric fame, 

But died heroic death and left a name. 

Oh, wreck me not! but let me shine renewed 
By builder's skill, and let this endless feud 
Which once condemned me, then reprieved, expire. 
Be grateful to the son of worthy sire, 
And let his thousands ten transform my face ; 
Root out those squalid booths that crowd my base, 
Then I shall flash to view, a happy contrast rare 
To those gay, dizzy towers, that pierce the upper air. 



G* 



THE CENTURIES 

XIXTH 

A GEM in Time's tiara shineth bright 
** That yester mom we saw not sparkling there ; 

A hundred years 'twas forming, round and fair, 
And now 'tis fix'd eterne, like star of night. 
Meantime, man learn'd to harness Nature's might, 

And skim the seas, and o'er the land to fare 

Swifter than darting swallows fly ; laid bare 
The secrets of the stars ; created light 

Whose brilliance shames the sun ; withdrew the veil 
That hides the subtle germs of life his bane 

And oft-times death ; disclosed the strange advance 
From lowly forms to ever higher scale, 

And taught our thoughts to flash across the main, 
Destroying space a boon beyond romance. 



THE CENTURIES 59 



XXTH 

A mother loves with fondly- forward eyes 

Upon her infant's after-days to pore, 

And we forecast the years, grasping the ore 
That in their hidden mines uncertain lies; 
But who can guess what marvellous surprise 

The waves of coming time will roll ashore? 

Shall mankind vie with albatross and soar 
With easy flight across the fickle skies? 

Or shall the mists that cloud Disease's darts 
Be blown aside? The restless ebb and flow 

Of tides be turned to happy use, and wipe 
The sweat from many brows? Or warlike arts 

Be changed to bloodless peace ? Or shall men grow 
To heights of knowledge and to wisdom ripe? 



THE TREE ARTISTIC AND THE 
TREE COMMERCIAL 

ART and science, beauty and utility, are opposed couples. 
They look at the world and at Nature's products through 
different spectacles. Nowhere is the antagonism between 
the utilitarian spirit and the aesthetic more pronounced 
than in the matter of trees. The tree of art and the tree of 
commerce are miles asunder. A painter or a poet contemplates 
with an artist's love of beauty the individual oak, or elm, or 
beech, wide-branched, well-balanced, umbrageous, swaying in 
every breeze. He loves to hear its branches whisper in the 
summer wind or groan under the fury of a hurricane. He 
shelters under its leafage during a sudden shower, he sees 
the Dryad lurking within the screen of its close-pent boughs. 
The commercial forester or wood merchant, on the other hand, 
derides such vegetable growths as mere cumberers of the 
ground, since they have no commercial value and are good 
only for firewood. What he loves is the long, straight stem, 
free from branches and knots, the finely tapering trunk that 
rises straight from the ground, and will saw up into clean 
and serviceable planks. Each is entitled to his own point of 
view. One sees only the beauty of the branching stem, where 
individuality has enjoyed ample room and free play to work 
out its ideal ; the other looks farther ahead, and estimates 
value entirely by the standard of the woodyard. The points 
of view are incompatible, irreconcilable, opposed, and yet 
there is room, there is a necessity for both in this imperfect 
world. The market gardener who grows narcissus and jonquils, 

60 



THE TREE ARTISTIC 61 

roses and carnations for Covent Garden, is limited by utility 
and economy. He rears his plants in rigid, stiff, mechanical 
rows, utilising every inch of the ground, and calculating on 
so many blooms to the square foot. The landscape gardener, 
on the other hand, who caters only for beauty to the eye, 
dots his plants at intervals over his demesne, and tempts them 
to flash their charms forth at unexpected moments on the 
chance passer-by. 

Undoubtedly the artist's standpoint is the one accepted by 
the generality of mankind. Who that has traversed the 
grounds of some ancient manor-house, and has stopped to 
survey the mighty growths that give variety and grandeur to 
the grassy lawns but finds himself on the side of the poets? 

"Enormous elm -tree-boles did stoop and lean 

Upon the dusky brushwood underneath 
Their broad curved branches, fledged with clearest green, 
New from its silken sheath." 

The wood merchant looks askance, and shrugs his 
shoulders at this kind of wood ; but the towering, rounded 
sycamores, the leafy, wide-armed chestnuts, the branching 
oaks, and elms of gnarled bark, the smooth-skinned beeches 
radiating off into a thousand branching stems are full of beauty 
to the artist's as well as to the ordinary man's eye. It is 
useless for the forester to plead that if all the solid wood of 
such trees, instead of being dissipated in multitudinous and 
useless branches, which are mere lumber, were concentrated in 
one straight stem, the commercial value would be multiplied 
a hundredfold. It is true, but irrelevant The money value 
would be increased, but the beauty would be lost. Man 
cannot live by commerce alone. The world would be the 
poorer, and life rendered more barren, but for the glory of 
the branching, solitary tree. 

The trees of commerce must be planted close together 



62 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

no more than a yard apart. The struggle for air and light 
forces all active growth to the head ; the side branches get 
no encouragement ; they cease to prosper ; by and by they die 
and drop off decayed. The result is a dense mass of straight 
clean stems, devoid of branches, lacking in those hard knots 
that give trouble to the saw and the plane, and destroy the 
uniform quality of the wood. It is such crowding that makes 
the ideal wood of the joiner and the house carpenter. In a 
pleasure park, where trees are grown for beauty, and beauty 
alone, each is granted ample space and elbow-room. The side 
branches obtain plenty of light and air. They develop just 
as vigorously as the main stem. The result is a leafy, much- 
divided series of boughs, tapering off in all directions, " laying 
their dark arms about the field." This is the secret of their 
varied beauty. Hence Keats could appreciate large, branching 
oaks : 

" As when, upon a tranced summer-night, 
Those green-robed senators of mighty woods, 
Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars, 
Dream, and so dream all night without a stir." 

And Tennyson could on similar lines describe elms and 
sycamores : 

"Witch-elms that counterchange the floor 
Of this flat lawn with dusk and bright ; 
And thou, with all thy breadth and height 
Of foliage, towering sycamore." 

Afforestation is in the air, and our waste places will soon 
be crowded with rising firs and larches. This is well, but we 
should be careful to see that in the new departure the artistic 
side of tree life shall not be obliterated, and that in certain 
areas the beauty that comes from leaving trees to grow green 
and broad under natural conditions and without artificial 
restrictions, shall be preserved. 



THE TREE ARTISTIC 63 

One wonders why our preachers have not utilised this 
distinction for moral purposes. The solitary tree, growing by 
itself and with ample scope for development in every direction, 
blown upon by every breeze, thrusting its roots deep, and its 
branches wide apart, is typical of that individuality, sturdy, 
independent, stalwart, and beautiful, which is rarer to-day than 
it was in previous centuries. The trees of the close-packed 
forest, slim, tapering, all of a uniform pattern, without 
individuality or marked idiosyncrasy, are an analogy to modern 
life in large cities. Our close-packed civilisation tends to 
make all citizens after one pattern. Individuality is sunk ; we 
develop no knotty features ; our roots are shallow ; we have 
not buffeted with the winds and the storms ; we are units in a 
crowd, as like as peas. We have rubbed off our knots and 
our gnarls, but we have lost something of the moral beauty 
that comes from independent development. Our value as 
commercial, wage-earning instruments is, perhaps, thereby 
increased, but our individuality of character as men is as 
certainly diminished. 



MATTHEW ARNOLD 

(Died isth April, 1888.) 

T^HE sunshine of mid- April comes again 

And crowns with gold sweet Oxford's dreaming towers, 
And clothes in green thy scholar-gipsy's bowers 
Cumner and Bagleywood and Hinkseys twain. 

This day thy sudden summons came, strong soul, 
To join that stronger soul, thy valiant sire, 
In God's vast labour-house we know not where, 
And bring thy force to its clear-purposed goal. 

Self-poised thou wert ; a stoic mind austere, 
That would have man on his own strength rely, 
And look within, nor cureless ills deplore ; 

Untutored still, thy voice he will not hear, 

Nor heed thy prayer for peace that plaintive cry 

Against the restless world's loud brawling roar. 



ROBERT BROUGH 

[Artist. Died, of injuries received in a disaster on the Midland Railway 
near Cudworth Junction, aist January, 1905, aged 32.] 

S ar( ^ en i s a treasure-house of flowers, 
Tulips yellow and blush and fiery red ; 
And hyacinths, that mount in azure towers 
When May's bright magic stirs their hidden powers, 
Ring round the centre bed. 

And one strong, pregnant stem of promise fair 
Drew every morn my gaze to watch its rise, 
As shook its beaded petals out to air, 
Waxing from green to purple, rich and rare, 
Ever a new surprise. 

Till an unskilful gardener, sent to mow 
The grassy plots and free from disarray 
The gravel walks that wander to and fro, 
Struck down my fragrant spike with luckless blow, 
And bore it crush'd away. 



JAMES MOIR 

[Rector, Aberdeen Grammar School. Died i6th May, 1902, aged 56.] 

r T"'HE flag droops midway in the drizzling rain 

* Above the halls which hear his voice no more, 
Who pierced the net of circumstance and bore 
With eager foot across the open plain, 
Eyeing the crags afar, striving amain 
To scale the dazzling peaks of classic lore ; 
Up these he clomb and saw the farther shore 
How fair; then turning, victor, he was fain 
With beck'ning hand and kindly voice to cheer 
The tender stripling through the rocky way, 
And many won the upward road ; but he 
Was thrust by dire mischance's random spear, 
And crept on broken wing and falteringly 
To where the friendly Shadow waiting lay. 



66 



AN OCTOBER RUN 

" One crowded hour of glorious life 
Is worth an age without a name." 

Scott 

r "T' HE beech leaves are flying, and the pine-tops dance 
JL wildly as they are caught and cuffed by the south-west 
gale. Black, ominous clouds gloom over the sky and fleet 
before the wind from horizon to horizon ; the weather-wise 
shake their dissuasive heads when, rod in hand, you step 
on the railway platform and announce your intention of trying 
for a salmon. " The river is too low and clear ; the stream 
is thick with floating leaves," they object, while the strength 
of the wind and the absence of sunshine are gravely urged as 
fatal circumstances. But it is your last chance for the season, 
and the " last taste of sweet is sweetest," so that hope easily 
brushes aside the quid-nuncs' wisdom and promises herself a 
pleasant outing, even if the central factor of " a kill " be 
eliminated. Are not the autumn tints glowing at their ruddiest ? 
Is not that prize enough, even though this basket be empty? 
So you trudge off serenely, resolved to be content with the 
beauties of nature, and, indeed, at this season these are sufficient 
to fill the least imaginative soul with ecstasy. The harmonious 
blending of yellows and reds and greens that the wooded 
reaches of the Dee valley present when October is waning, 
appeals to most minds, albeit its full beauty can be realised 
and felt only by the artist. The flaming red of the beeches, 
brighter in contrast with the glaucous green of the surrounding 
Scotch firs ; the delicate, pale gold of the lace-work-like leafage 
of the silver-boled birch ; the wild cherry flicking the rosy 

67 



68 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

remnants of its summer's pride ; and the bronze of the fading 
oak are all painted with nature's lavish and liberal hand. 
Flowers there are none ; but their place is taken by something 
more massive and splendid and on a scale eclipsing their 
minuter beauties. The doghips, still intact, shine bright on 
every rosebush by the wayside, and the bare stubble fields are 
relieved in colouring by the contiguous green of the leafy 
turnip. Within the wood, the beech nuts and acorns are 
pattering to the ground ; through the withered bracken, dry 
and sapless and light chocolate in hue, creep the trailing 
bramble shoots, beaded here and there by glistening fruit ; and 
the litter of leaves already fallen without, to all appearance, 
materially diminishing the glories overhead and not yet 
compounded with the earth from which the sun's magic lured 
them, rustles crisply under the passing foot. Where the wind 
has not disturbed them, the scattered leafage lies inches deep, 
and suggests Milton's " thick as autumnal leaves in Vallom- 
brosa " ; but, aloft, the breeze whistles and soughs and surges 
in the tree tops ; here, in the covert, you are in a haven of 
peace, and your footfall on the velvet carpet of moss, or a 
springy bed of fir-needles, makes no sound ; you are in a hushed 
retreat which no boisterous gusts can pierce. 

You emerge at the river bank, where the flying gold of the 
woodlands is being rapidly liquidated by the spendthrift gale 
and whirled into the swift and silvery Dee. You are soon 
equipped for warfare, and your fly is searching the depths of 
a likely pool. Carefully you cover one pool after another, 
but without result, and you begin to credit the wisdom of your 
would-be prophets. The wind is furious and troublesome, and, 
as they predicted, the stream is aglow with floating leaves ; but 
you do not despair. The sun breaks through the clouds and 
sends a jubilant ray into the pellucid stream, lighting up each 
rounded pebble in the river bed. You are casting mechanically, 
for you have not had one spark of encouragement to keep 



AN OCTOBER RUN 69 

your attention on the alert, when suddenly you feel a sturdy 
jerk, and that indescribable electric tremor that comes from 
contact with a living thing, and in a flash you realise that your 
fly has gone home, and that you have an exciting struggle 
before you. At first you see nothing, but your line moves 
with a steady pull up-stream into the more broken water ; 
gradually the pace increases as your victim seems to realise 
the gravity of his predicament, and when he reaches the neck 
of the current he sends your heart into your mouth by 
plunging for a brief moment into visibility. So sudden is the 
movement, and so unexpected the size of the fish, that for a 
second your will-power is paralysed, and you forget that most 
elementary precept in such circumstances, the necessity of 
lowering your rod ; but fortune is kind, and no mishap occurs. 
He darts across to the opposite bank, while your reel " skirls " 
fiercely, and your nineteen-foot rod bends like a bow. That 
short glimpse of his shining bulk bespeaks a twenty-pounder 
at least, and your friends who have come to give help and 
guidance begin to speculate on your chances of a successful 
issue. " Remember the smallness of your hook, and be 
cautious." " Do not dally, for something may get chafed, and 
he may break away." It is needless to attempt adhering to 
these contradictory counsels, for the fish has it all his own 
way for a time down-stream on this side, then awthart the 
current and up-stream on the other side ; then a fall back to 
deeper water and again a charge forward, and these see-saw 
manoeuvres are repeated again and again. If your prey had 
only the wit to rush up-stream in one continuous and sustained 
effort, he would leave you hopelessly behind and soon exhaust 
your reserve of line, and liberty would be his ; but, fortunately, 
this policy .has not dawned as yet on the piscine brain. You 
keep a tight line, and, being constantly on the move, he by 
and by begins to labour and roll. For twenty minutes you 
pace up and down, muscle and mind on the strain, till your 

H 



;o ALEXANDER MACKIE 

biceps, unaccustomed to this kind of exertion, trembles and 
aches. A happy moment is chosen, and your friend steps out 
with the gaff to bring the fish to land, but his spirit is yet 
unbroken, and the sight of a human being in so close proximity 
sends him forth once more on his wild career. A second time 
and a third time the same thing happens, but at last he is 
flapping his tail on the pebbly strand. He turns the scales 
at 22^ 2 x lbs. a plump and silvery fish with a cicatrix behind 
the dorsal fin interesting record of an attack by seal or otter, 
from which he happily escaped to fall into more appreciative 
hands. 

It is time for lunch, which all are agreed has been well 
earned, but, after an hour's adjournment, operations start 
afresh. The wind is more violent, the shower of whirling leaves 
thicker than ever, but the sun continues to throw his bright 
gleams over the wooded banks, brightening the islets of colour 
in the sea of pines. There is no fresh excitement until you 
come to the scene of your early triumph, and at the identical 
spot where that took place, you hook another fish. His 
tactics are the same, but he is less heavy, more sombre in 
colour, less determined in spirit. Moreover, you are more at 
your ease. " Use lessens marvel." In a few minutes he, too, 
is jerking his expansive tail on the clean pebbles a nineteen- 
pounder, which, if he had stood alone, would have been some- 
thing to speak of, but he suffered from eclipse by a greater. 

The sun declines in the west, and with it goes the sobbing 
wind ; the hush of a cloudless autumn evening settles on the 
hills. A star peeps out, and in the gathering dusk you make 
for the railway station and the bustle of the city streets, but 
you will fight your battles o'er again, and recall that October 
day with no mean pride. 



A BLIZZARD IN BUCHAN 

LECTURING UNDER DIFFICULTIES 

"'Twas a rough night." 
" My young remembrance cannot parallel 
A fellow to it." 

" Macleth " 

THE good people of Aberdeen who on Friday evening sat 
comfortably at their own firesides and rejoiced over the 
break-up of the frost can hardly realise the furious tempest 
that raged during the night in the exposed uplands of Buchan. 
Some experiences of the East Aberdeenshire weather that has 
to be faced in the course of an electoral campaign have 
recently been recorded ; it was the lot of the present writer to 
encounter a series of misadventures which he humbly thinks 
surpassed them all. He was not in Buchan for the purpose 
of exploiting any political propaganda, but merely to deliver 
an innocent lecture on a non-political subject. The roads 
were reported clear, the abnormal frosts of the previous days 
having performed their silent ministry, unhelped by any wind, 
but the partial and half-hearted thaw of Friday afternoon 
brought with it a stiff north-wester which, gathering force as 
the evening hours drew on and making a plaything of the 
loose, unpacked snow, soon built it up in long, deep, fantastic 
and corniced drifts that made locomotion of every kind a 
struggle. 

As we left the snug village of New Deer, bound for the 
more upland region of Cairnbanno, some four miles distant, 

71 



72 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

the snow powder was drifting across the highway in a fashion 
that boded ill for the return journey, but this did not frighten 
us. It was just 7 o'clock. The anonymous comet was clearly 
visible as an interloping intruder low down in the western sky ; 
the merry tinkle-tinkle of the sleigh-bells was cheery antidote 
to the crunching and rasping sound of the runners as we glided 
swiftly over a somewhat bumpy road. We were soon out in 
the open country where the drifts lay athwart the road, not at 
right angles, but askew, and tapering off in uncertain and 
irregular ridges not easy to negotiate. In the dim, weird light 
just preceding moonrise, the drifts were discernible only by 
the rise and fall of the sledge, as it took the billowy ridges like 
a boat heaving on waves. All went well for half the distance, 
although several times our steed, plunging unexpectedly into 
wreaths of great depth, lost his foothold and came down on his 
knees. He always righted himself, however. Then we reached 
a much-exposed part of the thoroughfare, across which the 
wind whistled with terrific fury, whirling clouds of fine snow 
particles in blinding gusts, right in the face of man and beast. 
All eyes were shut in self-defence for a brief moment. This 
lapse from attention cost us dear. The sledge bumped, turned 
sideways at a high angle, and then, canting over gently to the 
left, deposited driver and passenger headlong in a deep drift. 
The sway of the sleigh shafts caught the horse unawares as he 
made a wild plunge forward ; he slipped, stumbled and fell, 
and there we were all blent in one white heap! It was a 
downy fall ; the only risk was from the kicking horse. The 
driver promptly flew to the animal's head ; the passenger 
humbly strove to right the inverted sleigh a task quite beyond 
the strength of one pair of arms. In the absence of extraneous 
help we were paralysed, and might pass the night in this 
predicament. No house in view ; nothing but blinding drift 
and a wind that cut like a knife. I was planning to run ahead 
and call for succour, when providentially appeared a youth, 



A BLIZZARD IN BUCHAN 73 

looming out of the haze a white and ghost-like figure. Grasp- 
ing our plight, he promptly retreated to summon assistance. 
Soon a dancing lantern was visible in the rear, and behind it 
came several willing helpers, wind-swept, snow-white forms, 
looking larger than human in the thick gloom. We made a 
weird picture, something between Lieutenant Shackleton's illus- 
trations of Antarctic blizzards and the half-light scenes that we 
are accustomed to associate with the dim underworld of Hades 
and classical mythology. A second lantern hove in sight. A 
" lassie " with brown hair and flying skirts came to join the 
company. There we stood, a semi-circle of blanched figures, 
with backs to the wind hair, whiskers, headgear, every 
garment powdered. 

" Ay, Geordie, that's an immas nicht." 

" Man, I nivver saw the marra o't." 

" Bit f ar's the horse ? " 

The query was relevant, for meantime both horse and the 
driver holding down his head were all but out of sight in the 
accumulating snow, and the sleigh itself was also fast disap- 
pearing from view. Willing hands, however, set to work ; 
shovels were procured ; the shafts were at last withdrawn from 
the vehicle and the good horse, relieved from his awkward and 
constrained horizontal posture, once more stood on his feet. 
It was, however, pronounced useless to proceed further with 
the sleigh. Horse and trap were relegated to the adjacent 
farm, whence such opportune help had come. The remainder 
of the journey had to be accomplished on foot. So the writer 
trudged on, under guidance, to Cairnbanno School. On enter- 
ing the schoolroom, he must have looked a veritable Father 
Christmas. The humorous shout that greeted him from a 
packed audience, which after waiting patiently for half an 
hour was beginning to despair of his appearance, was cheering, 
and put hearers and speaker in touch at once. 

The lecture over, there was the ordeal of the return journey. 

H* 



74 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

The wind had, if anything, increased, and the wreaths had 
grown larger in the two hours' interval. Our plans were to 
return on foot to the farm where the horse and trap were in 
shelter. This took time, but the lantern of a friendly guide 
was a great help. It warned us of the proximity of a drift, 
and gave us the chance of circumventing it, where that was 
possible. Notwithstanding this aid, blinded by the gale and 
advancing with half -shut eyes, we made occasional false steps 
and found ourselves suddenly up to the waist in a slanting 
ridge, and must wrestle out as we best could. The unwonted 
exertion sets the circulation in a glow ; we are breathless and 
gasping, but plunge on. Ultimately we have to take to the 
cultivated land snowfields, waste and pathless where the 
drifts are less in evidence than in the roadway, and thus by a 
circuitous route we reach the comfortable stable where our 
horse is in shelter. Munching his hay in sweet content he 
seemed averse to taking the road again ; but there was no 
remedy. For a mile we paced along slowly and warily without 
mishap, pausing now and then, after the fiercer gusts, to let 
the steed recover his wind ; then forward to the next series 
of obstructions. By and by we reached a more perverse section 
than ordinary. The horse was up to his haunches at every 
step, and quite unable to keep his feet. Right ahead the 
same conditions seemed to persist as far as the eye in the 
misty moonlight could pierce. It was impossible to proceed ; 
the sledge must be left behind. Most opportunely we suc- 
ceeded in finding an open gate, led the horse into the field, 
unharnessed him, and, leaving the sleigh to be recovered in 
daylight and under less strenuous circumstances, we once more 
took to the highway on foot. It was a weary and exhausting 
journey. My cheery driver, lantern in hand, led the horse ; 
I followed, carrying the useless and irrelevant whip. By a 
frequent shout he ascertained whether his passenger was keep- 
ing in touch with his lead. Wreath after wreath had to be 



A BLIZZARD IN BUCHAN 75 

laboriously surmounted. We advanced but slowly. At last, 
however, the welcome lights of the village of New Deer came 
in sight, and at midnight I was seated before a blazing fire, 
drying my steaming garments, and thankful to have reached 
a sheltering haven. At the inn I found a fellow-traveller a 
well-known citizen of Glasgow whose sleigh had preceded 
mine by an hour, and just succeeded in getting through safely. 
A pipe was heaven upon earth after such exhausting efforts. 
My dreams were all of ghostly forms emerging from regions 
of gloom, of horses plunging wildly up to their haunches in 
piles of soft, yielding snow, and of my own helpless legs sink- 
ing deeper and deeper in drifts that seemed to be bottomless. 



AT THE GRAVE OF BURNS 

[Dumfries, igth August, igoo.] 

"\\7THO will not pause, great soul, beside thy dust 
"" And silent cast his thought far back to days 
When thou didst tread these very streets, with praise 
From few and bitter blame from many thrust 
Into thy feeling ear? Our times, more just, 
Forgetting frailties of the blood, thy blots erase 
And know thee better ; crowd thy tomb with bays 
And keep thy purer metal clear of rust. 
The limpid Nith, since death first laid thee low, 
Has babbled past thy mouldering clay and borne 
Thee many a greeting from thy leafy cot 
At Ellisland ; there still the daisies grow ; 
The scudding hare and tim'rous mouse yet mourn 
The kindly heart that sang their humble lot. 



76 



A BLACK FISHING 



ye think, Geordie, 't ye cud get a salmon for the 
morn's denner? I hiv twa deuks an' the turkey 't 
yer auntie sent, bit I think a bittie salmon wud be something 
oot o' the ordinar', an', min' ye, we've a lot o' fowk comin'. 
There's fourteen, coontin' wersels, an' they'll a' be gey yap 
aifter their lang walk in this snell weather." 

" Ah, weel, 'ooman, it's easy to say ' salmon ' ; there'll be 
nae diffeeculty in gettin' plenty o' fish, an' they were sae lang 
in winnin' into the fresh watter this year, owin' to the great 
drucht, an' they're in gran' order an' nae a bit reed, an' Fse 
warran' they'll ett weel. Bit, min' ye, the baillies is aye 
hingin' aboot, an' if I wis catched, it wud be a dear fish to me 
an' to you, tee. Hooever, since ye've set yer hert upon haein' 
a bittie to set aff the big denner, I'll risk it. I'll tak' Jock 
wi' me, aifter it's weel gloam't, an' wi' the help o' a lantern 
we sud bag a braw fishie in a handclap." 

It was Christmas Eve, and Geordie had finished his mid- 
day dinner, when this conversation took place. The house in 
which they lived was on the highway, at no great distance 
from the river, and it must be confessed the temptation was 
very great. Geordie Howie was a decent, respectable man, 
who would have disdained a theft or any other kind of 
immoral conduct, but to take from the river a fish which was 
no man's actual property, somehow struck his ethical sense 
as no crime at all, if only the deed could be done outside 
the knowledge of the properly-constituted authorities whose 
duty it was to guard against such offences. 

77 



78 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

Geordie smoked his pipe meditatively for twenty minutes, 
and then summoned his son Jock to make a preliminary 
reconnaissance. 

" Jock, min, yer mither's verra anxious to get a salmon for 
wir denner the morn ; div ye think we cud manage to grab 
ane, on-been seen, the nicht ? " 

" Och, fine that ; I wis up the waterside yesterday, an' the 
Haugh Pot's jist swarmin' wi' fish that hinna begood to spawn 
yet. Come awa' up bye Cottie's fyord an' I'll lat ye see 
them. Bit we'll need to keep a gleg e'e for the baillies. I 
saw them dodgin' aboot, up this wye, yesterday aifterneen." 

" Ye're richt, Jock ; that's the warst o't, an' if we were 
ta'en it wud be an awfu' disgrace, nae to mention a gey 
heavy fine. I'm thinkin' we'd better be content wi' the deuks 
an' the turkey an' nivver min' the salmon." 

" Na, na, we'll tak' the risk, I hinna been at a black fishin' 
for a while, an' I wad fain hae a try." 

" Weel, weel, laddie ; your wye be't ; bit f oorty years ago, 
we eesed to be at it ilka week in the winter time, an' mony 
a guid dookin' hae I gotten in sic ploys. An' aince a man wis 
drooned ae November nicht fan the watter wis in spate. It 
wis Willie Mutch fae the smiddy. He miss't his stroke at a 
fish an' fell aff the bank into deep watter, an' though we heard 
his cries, naebody cud see him i' the dark, an' he wis cairrit 
doon wi' a strong current. That stoppit the black fishing here 
aboot for that winter, I can tell you." 

While this conversation was proceeding, the two would-be 
poachers, father and son, made their way across stubble fields 
to the river-bank and moved up, their eyes fixed on the river- 
bed, to the Haugh Pot. Here they stood a considerable 
time, counting the fish, which were easily visible in the clear 
water, and planning the attack, which was to take place under 
cover of the darkness. 

This was their fatal blunder, and one which they were not 



A BLACK FISHING 79 

likely to have made if they had been more " habit and 
repute " poachers. While they stood by the Haugh Pot, 
pointing this way and that as their plan of campaign evolved 
itself in their minds, they were observed by the two bailiffs, 
who happened to be taking a short cut round the hillside to 
another part of the river. 

"Fa's that stan'in' at the Haugh Pot, Duncan?" 

" I think it's Geordie Howie an' his sin Jock. Fat are 
they deein' there, I winner? I some doot they're castin' a 
covetous e'e on the fish." 

" Man, it looks verra like it, bit Geordie's a most respect- 
able man, an' wadna try ony tricks seerly." 

" I dinna ken ; I widna trust 'im verra far. Ye ken, he's 
ane o' the auld school an' wis brocht up here in the days 
when black fishing wis a regular thing, so he's weel up to 
the job." 

" Boon amo' the heather wi' ye, than, an' I'll scan them 
through my gless. They're bidin' ower lang at that spot." 

Unaware that they were being spied upon, the two Howies 
made their arrangements and then quietly retraced their steps 
the way they came. Every movement they made was closely 
watched through the glass concealed among the brown heather. 

" I really believe they're arrangin' to spear a fish or twa 
this verra nicht. We'll need to be here, Duncan, aifter dark. 
I'm convinced frae the wye they're lookin' an' talkin', an' 
frae the pointin' o' han's an' shakin' o' heids, that there's 
something in the win'. Lie low here till they're back an' 
into the hoose." 

Half-an-hour afterwards the two watchers rose from their 
covert on the heathery hillside and stepped leisurely down the 
highway past George Howie's cottage. George himself they 
encountered a few steps from the door. 

" Ay, George, that's a fine nicht." 

" Ay, min, is't ; it's gyaun to the frost." 



8o ALEXANDER MACKIE 

"We'll be nane the waur o' that; it'll help to harden the 
roads a bit for them 't has trampin' to dae the morn." 

" Faigs, ay, min, that's weel min't ; it's Christmas day. 
Faur are ye gyaun to ha'd it this year ? " 

" Ow, we're jist on wer wye doon to the village, for there's 
a bit ploy on the nicht a kin' o' a concert, wi' readin's an' 
recitations an' that ; the morn there's to be a hare-drive at 
Tilly-yon." 

" Weel, weel, I houp you'll enjoy yersels. Gweed nicht." 

" Gweed nicht, George." 

So they parted. When out of earshot, Duncan said, with 
a wink to his colleague " That was a good shot, wasn't it ? 
He'll think the coast's clear for ae nicht ; but we'll see." 

Night fell, clear and starlit, but without a moon. As soon 
as the last streaks of twilight had been absorbed in the dark- 
ness, Geordie and Jock set off with a dark lantern and their 
well-sharpened leister. They took no precautions to conceal 
their movements, being completely taken in by the bailiff's 
plausible bluff. Soon they were at the Haugh Pot. The 
lantern was opened, and Geordie cast its " long levelled rule 
of streaming light " far across the pool in the direction of the 
spot where several fish had been seen swaying backwards and 
forwards in the river-bed during the afternoon. A few fish 
rose to the light and gradually approached the bank, following 
its gleam. Jock was ready, two or three feet below his father, 
with the salmon spear in his hand. 

" They're comin' in fine, bit be in nae hurry. Pick oot a 
guid ane an' keep aff o' reed, ugly brutes. That's a reed ane 
on the richt ; dinna min' him ; bit yonner's a sma'er fish on the 
left, clear an' shinin', wi' nae reed aboot 'im. That's yer 
fish! Keep yer e'e on 'im. I'll bring the licht roon, an' coax 
'im nearer. Noo, wait till he's close in an', min' ye, be 
sure ye dinna lose yer balance an' get a dookin' ! Now, then, 
in wi't ! " 



A BLACK FISHING Si 

Jock struck as directed, and in an instant the fish was 
struggling like a mad thing on the grassy bank. A blow or 
two on the head from Geordie's stick brought the struggles 
to a sudden end. The lantern was closed, and Jock shouldered 
the fish. 

" That's quick work. Yer mither'll get her salmon aifter 
a'. We cud a' ta'en half-a-dizzen an' naebody ony the wiser. 
We've fairly diddled the baillies this time." 

But a hand was laid on George's shoulder, and Duncan, the 
bailiff, said in a quiet tone : 

" Nae sae fast, Geordie ; ye're catched red-handed ; we 
thocht the concert micht be slow, so we took a step back to 
see if there wis ony poachers aboot." 

Mrs. Howie's dinner party was a failure in so far as the 
menu did not contain a toothsome dish of salmon, and there 
were vacant chairs, the head of the house and his eldest son 
being unavoidably absent. The two unhappy culprits enjoyed 
a humble dinner in less lovely surroundings, and on the Monday 
following were fined thirty shillings each, with the expenses. 
Needless to say, they have no more longing to taste the 
forbidden joys of a black fishing. 



A CHRISTMAS TURKEY 

A PRO XT Y bird an' wechty took my e'en at Buchan's store, 
Wi' his heid amo' the rabbits and his lang legs near 

the door ; 
He wis saxteen pun, untrussit, and brocht fifteen shillings 

clear 
Fan the shopman dump'd him doon, markit " sold," upo' the 

fleer. 

Awat he wis a hansom bird ; we niwer ate his marra, 
And hatch'd and bred he wis, they said, oot ower the wye o' 

Turra. 

A fairmer's wife, ca'd Murdo, got a present frae a frien' 
O' half a dizzen turkey's eggs for something she had deen ; 
She set them in the month o' Mairch an' oot cam' chuckens 

five, 

But ane dee't, bein' dorty, and that left fower alive ; 
They threeve gey weel a' simmer, feather'd fast, nor trailt a 

wing, 
Syne ae bird shot ayont the rest an' grew a kin' o' king. 

The bairnies ca'd him " Wallace," an' pettit him f orbye, 
Gaed him bitties o' their " pieces " an' pat taties in his wye ; 
The rascal kent them brawly an' cam' sornin' roon the byre 
Wi' his " bubble-bubble-bubble " an' his heid as reid's the fire. 
An' ilka week the bigger an' the fatter did he growe, 
Till there wasna turkey like 'im a' up an' doon the Howe. 

82 



A CHRISTMAS TURKEY 83 

He focht wi' ilka ither cock an' maister'd ane an' a', 
He frichtened the fite pussy cat an' fleyt the dog awa' ; 
He wis first oot i' the mornin' an' the last to bed at nicht, 
An' aye at every f eedin' time he gorged wi' a' his micht ; 
When unco fowk gaed up the close, he kerit them by their 

claes, 
An' syne he puff d his feathers oot and set his heid ablaze. 

When Yule-tide cam', the merchan' sent roon for hens and 

deuks 
To feed the hungry toon's fowk, an' mak' wark for sonsy 

cooks ; 

So, on a winter's mornin', 'fore the bairns were to the road, 
The gude-wife an' the herd loon pu'd him aff his sleepin' brod, 
An' lytht the neck o' Wallace, an' the necks o' twa-three mair, 
Syne pluckit them an' weyed them an' sent them aff wi' care. 

Nae winner tho' he drew me that day at Buchan's show, 
He wis, onleet, the snoddest bird in a' the bonny row ; 
I bocht him, an' we ate him, little thinkin' o' the woe 
That clooded a' the bairns, who had loo'd him like a Joe, 
When at porridge-time they learn'd that murdered he had 

been, 
An' was aff, in Sandie's cairt, on his wye to Aiberdeen. 



THE MAIRRAGE 

I AT THE HEN-WIFE'S 

IT was a Saturday afternoon at the end of May, and Marget, 
the hen-wife at Castle Brand, had just " maskit " her 
tea when she was favoured with a visit from Janet Broon, 
the gudewife o' Hillbrae. 

" Weel, Marget, an' f oo are ye the nicht ? " 

" Eh, I'm glaid to see ye, Janet. Come ben an' le'n ye 
doon. The ta/11 be ready in a han'clap. I'm nae that ull, 
only jist for-foch'en wi' ower muckle te dee. I hae nae less 
nor ten big brodmils o' chuckens to feed, forbye's my deuks 
an' my geese an' my turkeys. An' this weet wither mak's 
the craiters dorty specially the young turkeys. They get 
trachled amo' the weet girss, an' syne they begin to trail a 
wing an' jist dwine awa'. They're deein' aff, twa-three ilka 
day. Weel-a-wat, they keep me in a fry fae mornin' to nicht, 
an' it's an anger to see them pinin' an' slippin' oot amo' yer 
verra fingers." 

" Hoot awa' ; bit seerly the wither's gaun to brichten up a 
bit. Saw ye iver sic a time o' weet? Oor road's for a' the 
earth like porridge. Look at my queets! A day or twa like 
this wud seen dry them up though. I howp it's sattled. Bit 
fat's a' this reerie aboot doon at the Castle? I heard the 
terriblest squallochin' o' fowk, an' skirlin' o' pipes, an' platoons 
o' sheetin' doon-by, as I cam' ower the hill. It wis a din by 
ordinar'. I nivver heard the like in a' my born days." 

" Weel, ye may jist say't. Heard ye iver sic a pana- 
monia? Bit far hae ye been, 't ye hinna heard the news? 
It's wir gair'ner's waddin'. He's ta'en the quine Mackenzie, 
auld Donald's dother, the Heelan' keeper. It's been keepit 
something secret, I'm thinkin', bit it's a fyow days now sin I 
heard o't, an' I oonerstan' there wis to be a great gaitherin' 
o' fowk, an' awat they made plenty o' din. Auld Peggy Stewart 

8 4 



THE MAIRRAGE 85 

wis up here the streen an' gae me a' the rinnins o't. Ye see, 
Geordie's a muckle-thocht-o' man, an' a grait faavorit' wi' the 
leddy, an' awyte he's a weel-deein' chiel, an' a weel-faured, 
strappin' lad. He his a gey gude billet noo, sin' the laird biggit 
a' that het hooses an' vineries. He his half a dizzen o' men 
ooner 'im, an' they sen' up hampers o' flooers, carnations an' 
roses twice ilka week to Lunnon, an' cairns o' ither things 
forbye peaches, an' grapes, an' strawberries oot o' sizzon. 
Awyte he's far ben wi' the muckle fowk. Weel, it's bit 
nait'ral 't the chappie sid tak' a wife to keep's hoose snod for 
'im. An' I'se warran' he's been leukin' oot for a fylie. Only 
he's been some bauch aboot it, an' naebody guesst far he wid 
licht. He'd ees't to pey some attention to the merchan's 
dother, bit, aye sin' she spint that sax ooks wi' her auntie 
in Aiberdeen, she's been haddin' her heid gey heich, an' wis 
ance or twice barely ceevil tae the gair'ner. My certie, she 
mith'a deen waur nor tak' 'im. She'll maybe hae to bide awee 
afore anither seeks her ; bit it wud appear there's nae ane here- 
aboot gweed eneuch for 'er. Weel, as I wis sayin', Peggy taul 
me 't the gair'ner hid been gaun aff an' on to the gamekeeper's 
hoose ilka ither ook, bit Kathie's Heelan', ye ken, an' though 
she cairrit on a hyse wi' 'im an' wis fond o' a' kin' o' damn', 
she wisna abeen makin' fun o' 'im noo an' then. She's a 
tongue 't wid clip cloots, ye ken. Geordie's nae verra ready 
wi' his tongue, that's nae his strong pint, an' the cuts she gae 
'im neer han' frichtened 'im. He wis a kin' o' fley't to taikle 
'er, an' he hung back. He wud'a fain speert 'er, bit bein' 
a trifle dootfu 1 gin she wid hae 'im, an' 'er aul' f adder haein' 
naebody bit 'ersel' to leuk aifter his hoose, he thocht her 
f adder wid be sweer to lat 'er go. So, that wye, he nivver cam' 
to the pint. Min' ye, I dinna ken ; I'm jist tellin' you fat 
Peggy taul' me. Weel, this had been gaen on sin' the New 
Yeir. They war makkin' nae heidwye at a' tull the en' o' 
Febberwary. An' this is Leap Yeir, ye ken. On the twenty- 

I 



86 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

nint o' the month Geordie set oot to pey his usual visit (he 
turnt up aye ance a week) ; he wis dresst like the laird wi' ane 
o's grand reid carnations i' the button-hole o's kwyte, an' 
leukin' as spruce as a new preen. Her fadder hid been awa' 
a' day at the salmon nshin' wi' Sir John's cousin, Maister Hardy, 
fae India, an' wisna come hame. So Geordie for ance got 
Kathie a' tull 'imsel'. They sat awa' at the fireside an' warna 
seemin'ly gettin' muckle to say, for the lassie wis aye brichtest 
an' jolliest fin a third pairty wis present. Geordie wis pittin' 
in the time playin' wi' the black retriever, fin Kathie made his 
hert dunt by askin' 'im if he kent fatna day this wis. He's 
some blate, ye see, tho' weel up to his ain wark, an' it nivver 
struck 'im 't it wis the leap year day. Weel, wud ye believe 't ? 
Peggy says 't there an' then the jaud proposed to 'im, an' peer 
Geordie, glaid to see his diffeeculties ta'en awa', agreed to tak' 
'er at Whitsunday. It wis to be keepit dark till near-han' 
the time. The invitations war sent roon' only a fortnicht syne. 
Awyte there wud be a gran' turn oot ; an' a big denner wis 
to be ready at the Castle. The ooner-gair'ners an' a' the 
dogmen and gillies war to be there, an' they war to bring their 
guns and keep up the splore by sheetin' nae end. Nae winner 
tho' ye h'ard the din o' them." 

" Weel, weel ! It's keerious 't I nivver h'ard a cheep o't. 
Bit ye see we're at the back o' the wardle up by at Hillheid, 
an' I hivna been at the chop for a fylie, an' the last twa 
Sundays hae been sae weet 't I didna gang near the kirk or 
I wud'a been seer to hear something aboot it." 

" That wye ye've been a' ahin'. Bit that's the story, an' 
I'm seer I wuss them baith weel. Kathie's nae an ull craiter, 
an' awyte she's aye been verra kin' to 'er aul' fadder. An' 
for a' 'er reid heid an' her lang tongue she's a trig, bonny 
deemie, an' sud mak' a gude wife to Geordie. I'm sair pay't 
tho' for the aul' gaimie ; he'll hae to get some ane to manage 
for 'im. He's nae sae young as he ance wis. They say 't 



THE MAIRRAGE 8; 

he's worth a hantle o' siller. Ye see he's aye been in the wye 
o' gettin' gweed tips at the sheetin' time fae the laird's freens, 
fin they come to slaachter the pairtrichs an' the phe'san's, an' 
some o' the Lunnon fowk, them 't kens fat's fat, hae taul' 'im 
far to invest his savin's. An' that wye o't he'll leave a gey 
curn bawbees fin he weers awa'. An' I heard that the Laird 
had presented George wi' a spaacious mahogany sideboord, 
an' gien 'im an eke tull's salary." 

" Ye fairly hae the news, Marget. I'm glaid I leukit doon. 
Bit it's time I wis settin' hamewuth. I'll get up my fit for 
bidin' sae lang. Gweed nicht to ye. I'm muckle obleegt t' 
ye for a' yer braw news." 

" Gweed nicht, Janet, an' haste ye back." 

II AT THE MERCHANT'S 

Miss Jeanie M'Eachern, the merchant's daughter, was also 
favoured with a visit. Her friend, Betty Simpson, cycled 
over from the village of Littletown to have a chat with her 
erstwhile school companion. 

" Eh, Betty ! Is that you ? I'm sorry 't oor Jeanie's nae 
at hame the nicht. She's awa' ower the Sunday to Aiberdeen 
to see her auntie." 

" Oh, I'm awfully sorry ; but it really doesn't matter. It 
was such a fine afternoon that I thought I would run over and 
see how you all were. But the roads are awful bad with mud. 
I've just tasht my new cycle. But what's ado in the parish 
to-day? I never saw such a commotion, and my head's 
deaved with the shooting." 

" It's a mairrage the waddin' o' that muckle taupie Sir 
John's gair'ner. He's mairryin' the keeper's dother, a hally- 
racket, Heelan' quine, wi' a heid as reid's fire, an' an awfu' 
lang tongue. She's been huntin' 'im doon for a towmond, an' 
the peer coof his been nabbit at the lang length. She wis nivver 
oot o's gairden, I believe, hin'erin' his wark an' spungin' upon 



88 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

'im for flooers an' fruit an' vegetables. Last year I had to 
sen' Jeanie to the gairdens geyan aften aboot my jam, an* ilka 
time 't she gaed, fa wis there bit Kathie Mackenzie an' a' her 
towsy tykes ? Jeanie wis fair affronted wi' 'er ; the wye she 
cairrit on afore the men wis eneuch to scunner a body. I'm 
sorry for the silly gomeral, only he's pitten his heid into the 
mink wi' his een open. The gowk'll repent it yet, or a' be deen. 
Ye niwer saw sic a fizz as there's been aboot this waddin'. 
Ye wad really think 't naebody had ivver been mairrit in th' 
pairish afore. The Laird has paintit an' papert the gair'ner's 
bit hoose for 'im, an' gien 'im a sideboord, nae less. Fat's a 
common gair'ner deem' wi' a sideboord? An' the leddy has 
giftet the bride wi' a diamond brooch. Fat's she needin* 
a diamond brooch for a gaimie's dother? An' the ither 
keepers an' gair'ners hae clubbit thegither an' bocht a silver 
tea an' coffee service. Na ! Na ! Nae solid silver, I'm thinkin', 
bit plated goods, an' the hoose-servan's gae her a muff an' him 
a cigarette case an' a silver-munted walkin' stick. An' her 
fadder's gi'en 'er a new piano a Braidwud, I believe. They 
say he made a bing o' siller by buyin' rubber shares on the 
advice o' that man 't wis here fae Ceylon fernyear, an' he's 
waur't some o't on this piano. An' they're gaun to keep a 
servan' lass an' gweed kens fat a'. The haill kwintra side's f u' 
o't. They say 't th' brazen-faced cutty took the chance o' leap 
yeir an' proposed t' th' silly sumph hersel', an' I weel believe't. 
She his braiss for onything the impident smatchet." 

" This is news. I always thought he would take your Jeanie." 
" Haud yer tongue ! Nae doot he wud'a fain cast his 
een oor gait, but my girl his a min' abeen allyin' hersel T wi' 
a man in his hummel station o' life, an' I reckon she gae 'im 
little audisence. So he had to fa' back on th' Heelan' limmer. 
The jaud'll lead 'im a fine life wi' her dogs, an' 'er flooers, an' 
'er meesic, an' 'er poetry, an' th' lang Heelan' tongue o' her ; 
only, it's like to like, an' motty saut's gweed for hairy butter." 



THE LOON FAE AIBERDEEN 

HIS legs war lang an' lanky an' his face wis unco fyte, 
As loupin' fae the dog-cairt, he threw aff his muckle 

kwyte ; 

He lookit freely sober and nae sowens supp'd ava 
Fan sittin' at's bit sipper, a great f airlie to us a' ; 
He cam' to spend his holidays wi's mither's sister, Jean ; 
But gin ye jist had seen him, on's return to Aiberdeen! 

He wistna fat a coulter is, nor kent a drake fae deuk, 
He spier'd as mony questions wad hae fill'd a muckle beuk, 
An' fan the foreman tellt's to tramp hay-coles into a soo 
The laddie look'd dumfoonert fair, an' thocht 'im daft or foo : 
Nae winner tho' they leuch, at times, the fowk o' Dubbystane, 
He kent a hantle better, or he wan to Aiberdeen! 

He cudna stan' the bubbly-jock an' wudna face the bull, 
He hoosh'd awa' the rottens aye, fan he gaed ben the mull ; 
Wi' flauchter-spade an' barrow fan we took 'im to the moss, 
He layer'd in a boggey place an' made 'imsel' a soss. 
He wis oot an' oot a toon's bairn, an' that wis easy seen, 
Yet, twa-three things we taucht 'im 'fore he gaed to Aiberdeen ! 

He guddl'd i' the burn, an' took to sweemin' i' the dam, 
Made freens wi' Jock, the herd-loon, as well's the collie Sam, 
Could tell aye far the turkeys laid, gie oil-cake to the mairt, 
An' syne he learn'd to single neeps, an' yoke a horse an' cairt ; 
Tho' far ahin' at startin' he wis gleg an' byous keen, 
So he wis better educate, fan back at Aiberdeen! 

89 



QO ALEXANDER MACKIE 

He hyeuk'd an' ran a salmon for half an oor an' mair, 
He shot a wheen o' rabbits, tee, an' aince near pinn'd a hare, 
Loot bang ahin' a wild deuk, fleein' by wi' whistlin' wing, 
But " Gamie " wisna far awa', an' swore like ony thing ; 
Syne order'd him to cut his stick, or, by the licht abeen, 
He'd send 'im, i' the bobby's chairge, het-fit to Aiberdeen! 

He tried to throw the haimmer, an' awyte it's Gospel fack, 
The first time that he floorish'd it, garr'd a'body stan' back, 
He speel't the gean-tree ilka nicht an' fill'd his bonnet foo, 
To gie to Jinse, the servan' lass, an' blacken a* her moo, 
An' fyles made oot to muck the byre, an' bed the nowt at e'en, 
A buddin' fairmer, faigs he wis, or he reach'd Aiberdeen. 

He led Jess to the smiddy and rade hame upo' her back, 
An' wisna blate to men' her trot wi' jist anither smack, 
An* on his hin'most Sunday, drave his auntie to Waulkmill, 
An' lows'd an' groom'd the shalt 'imsel', as swippert's hostler 

Bill, 
Till a' the fowk cried " gweeshtins," fan they saw fat he had 

deen, 
" Ye'll miss that loon, I'm thinkin', fan he gangs to Aiberdeen!" 

The sax ouks slippit by, altho' he wisna fain to see't, 
But's father sent a letter that the skweel wis gaen to meet, 
He beet to pack his boxie wi' his torn breeks an' claes, 
An' hurl awa' as gloamin' grey wis sattlin' ower the braes ; 
His legs war swack, his cheeks war reid, tho' tears war in his 

e'en; 
His mither hardly kent 'im at " the Joint " o' Aiberdeen ! 



THE LOON FAE FOGGYLOAN 

HE wore a muckle gravit and his beets were byous roch, 
His knickers warna jist the shape to set a sturdy hoch, 
His cockit bonnet sat gey stiff upon his huddry heid, 
A stoot an' hardy gurk he wis, wi' cheeks like roses reid. 
He came to bide in Aiberdeen a month wi's Uncle John ; 
Anither loon he wis fan he gaed back to Foggyloan. 

A train wis something new ; he hadna been in ane afore, 
For seldom had he liftit fit three miles fae's father's door, 
Had nivver seen the sea, nor sailin' ships, excep' in beuks, 
Content to sail a boatie ower the dam amo' the deuks. 
He keepit's een aye apen tho', an' fan his time wis gone, 
He cairrit back a lot, to licht the gloom o' Foggyloan! 

He daunert roon the docks a bit an' stuck to Regent Quay, 
An' hung aboot the Fish Market as eident as could be ; 
He made freens wi' a sailor chap an' gaed aboord a tug 
That danc'd him ower the harbour bar an' made him sick's 

a dog. 

An' ilka week he stumpit throu' the sands fae Dee to Don, 
An' cam' aye back as yap as fae the moss at Foggyloan. 

On Fridays at the Castlegate he toited oot and in, 
An' kirn'd amo' the orra trock, laid oot to raise the win' ; 
An' syne he stacher'd up the street an' throu' the market door, 
An' past the basement far the wives were sellin' fish galore ; 
" Come buy," they said, " some yellow fish, my bonny laddie, 

John, 

An' sen' them in a parcel to yer f owk at Foggyloan ! " 

91 



92 ALEXANDER MACKIE 

The water-cairts, the taxi-cabs, an' twa-deck'd tramway cars, 
The spaacious shops an' offices, the kirks an' drinkin' bars, 
The Duthie Park, the theatre, and far-fam'd Bauby Law, 
The Music Hall, the Toon's Hoose, an* Marischal College 

braw, 

His gleg een sized them a', awat, an' syne fan he wis gone, 
They gae him things to gas aboot fan hame at Foggyloan! 

On Sunday he wis early up, the first ane doon the stairs, 
An' keen to meet the sodgers swingin' by to say their prayers, 
An' wisna laith to swall the thrang 'at dogs them up the street, 
The meesic wrocht like magic wand upon his muckle feet. 
An' files he thocht he'd list, an' tartan kilt an' sporran don, 
An' nae jist throw his life awa' to roost in Foggyloan! 

His fower weeks rattled swippert by ; the hairst wis jist in 

sicht, 

" Ye maun," his mither's letter said, " be hame the morn's nicht." 
He packit his belongin's and some gifts within his means 
He koft i' the New Market to present to a' his freens, 
And as the meen began to glower the Foudland Hills upon, 
He steed ance mair within a mile o' gweed auld Foggyloan ! 

Foregatherin' wi' his cronie Dod (his name wis Geordie Broon), 
He tell't 'im a' the fairlies he had seen aboot the toon, 
The steamers and the engines, the King Street droves o' swine, 
The Beach an' Bathin' Station, far the Zoo keeps beasts in pine, 
The fire brigade careerin' to Footdee or Gilcomston, 
" There's nae sic stur," he finished up, " in sleepy Foggyloan ! " 



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